Western New York’s Productive Aging Resource

Occupational Therapists Emerge as Leaders in Productive Aging

Buffalo Occupational Therapy


Productive Aging and Aging in Place| Buffalo NY | Buffalo OT

Michelle Eliason, MS, OTR/L, C.D.S., CKTS


Occupational Therapists – Emerging Leaders in Productive Aging and Aging in Place

An occupational therapist, by trade, is a rehabilitation therapist with a graduate level education in evaluating meaningful activities also known as occupations. In general, meaningful activities can fall into three categories—Activities of Daily Living (ADL), Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL), and leisure/hobbies. As its name suggests, an occupational therapist is completely set apart in the healthcare field as a specialist in assessing Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs), performing detail-oriented activity analysis, and using extensive knowledge of the human body to create an intervention. According to the Occupational Therapy Practice Framework, [The practice of Occupational Therapy| is the “knowledge of the transactional relationship and the significance of meaningful and productive occupations form the basis for the use of occupations as both the means and the ends of interventions” (3) Unlike nursing, social work, and other ancillary therapists, an occupational therapist is trained in both assessing ADLs/IADLs using activity analysis and providing physical/neurological rehabilitation which therefore postures occupational therapy as leaders in the aging industry.

The American Occupational Therapy Association  provides great explanation and resources regarding the vast scope of practice of occupational therapy   to support the aging population in communities across the United States. Occupational therapists are trained to address and impact the full spectrum of age-related needs including:

  • Adult cognitive disorders
  • Sensory modulation disorders in the adult population
  • Alzheimer’s and other related dementias
  • General Health and Wellness
  • Falls Prevention
  • Home Modifications
  • Chronic and Acute Pain
  • Restraint and Seclusion
  • Sleep disorders or difficulties
  • Stroke Rehabilitation
  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic Disease
  • and Bariatric complications.

Occupational Therapy Claims Long Term Community Care in Preparation for Mass Aging in Place Needs

Statistics – The Problem

Occupational Therapists (OT) and Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants (COTAs) have traditionally been located in institutionalized settings along side other ancillary professionals such as physical therapy and speech therapy, but this is changing. The current population changes being experienced around the globe are demanding specialists to shift their attention. Jonathan Vespa, demographer with the U.S. Census Bureau, stated, “The aging of baby boomers means that within just a couple decades, older people are projected to outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history” (4) More pressing still, New York ranks 4th in the number of individuals aged 65 years and beyond (7). There are a total of 619 nursing homes available in the state of New York averaging approximately 150 beds. In the most generalized terms, there are approximately 92,000 beds available for the 3 million older adults aged 70+ going to be requiring care by 2020. Almost 270 of these nursing facilities have passed New York State health inspections with 2 stars or less (8). Occupational therapists have the tools, assessments, and skillset required to become the answer to these critical problem facing our community.

A long term care community based initiative, The Independent Senior

Living CollaborativeSM, is the newest productive aging and aging in place program being launched in Buffalo, NY by occupational therapy (9).  By establishing a new model of care which brings the therapeutic  approach of nursing home and sub-acute therapists and combines it with home-based therapy and concepts case management, The Independent Senior

Living CollaborativeSM  is purposed to keep people in the place of their choice throughout the aging process despite physical ailments, memory loss and disease, chronic illness, and other age-related declines.

  1. DiZazzo-Miller, R., Samuel, P. S., Barnas, J. M., & Welker, K. M. (2014). Addressing everyday challenges: Feasibility of a family caregiver training program for people with dementia. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 68(2), 212-20. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2014.009829
  2. Eliason, M. C., MS, OTR/L. (2019, January 04). Outpatient Occupational Therapy | Buffalo, NY | Rehabilitation. Retrieved from https://www.agingwithpurpose.org/2018/09/16/outpatient-occupational-therapy-buffalo-ny-rehabilitation/
  3. Occupational therapy practice framework: Domain & process. (2014). Bethesda, MD: AOTA Press/American Occupational Therapy Association.
  4. Eliason, M. (2018, May 05). Boom Goes the American Population : Older Adults. Retrieved from https://www.agingwithpurpose.org/2018/05/01/boom-goes-the-american-population-older-adults/
  5. Outpatient Occupational Therapy | Buffalo, NY | Rehabilitation. (2019, January 04). Retrieved from https://www.agingwithpurpose.org/2018/09/16/outpatient-occupational-therapy-buffalo-ny-rehabilitation/
  6. What is Occupational Therapy. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.agingwithpurpose.org/what-is-occupational-therapy/
  7. Eliason, M. (2019, January 08). NYS Demands to be Age Friendly, Occupational Therapy Answers. Retrieved from https://www.agingwithpurpose.org/2018/12/06/nys-demands-age-friendly-occupational-therapy-answers/
  8. https://www.medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare/results.html#state=NY&lat=0&lng=0
  9. Eliason, M. (2019, January 03). WNY Independent Senior Living Collaborative |Buffalo Occupational Therapy. Retrieved from https://www.agingwithpurpose.org/2019/01/03/wny-independent-senior-living-collaborative-buffalo-occupational-therapy/

Michelle Eliason, MS, OTR/L, C.D.S, CKTS  is both an occupational therapist and CARES Dementia Specialist. She has been an elder care professional for 7+ years. Working in various aspects of the elder care industry has given her a generalist skill set and a broad knowledge base of elder care approaches and resources. Michelle is passionate about influencing the elder care industry advocating against nursing home negligence and elder abuse, and working with older adults to enable them to live in their own homes throughout the aging process.

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