Date of Award

2018

Document Type

Scholarly Project

Degree Name

Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT)

Department

Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

LaVonne Fox

Abstract

The aging baby boomer population calls for new solutions to enable older Americans to age in place in their communities of choice. Nine out of ten adults age 50 and older prefer to remain in their homes indefinitely as they age, or as long as they possibly can (Gonyea, & Burnes, 2013). However, program funding that supports aging in place does not come close to keeping pace with the rapid growth of the 65 and older population (American Institutes for Research, 2016). There are a limited number of programs in place to address socialization in community-dwelling older adults. The prevalence of social isolation has been well documented in the literature for community-dwelling older adults (Dickens, Richards, Greaves, & Campbell, 2011; Painter, et al., 2012; Levasseur et al., 2015; Masi, Chen, Hawkley, & Cacioppo, 2011; Sabir, et al., 2009; Steptoe et al., 2013; Vogelsang, 2016). Social isolation can have a variety of negative implications for older adults, including an increased rate of mortality, cardiovascular disease, infectious diseases, cognitive decline, diminished immune function, loneliness, depression, suicidal ideation, and suicidal behavior (Cornwell & Waite, 2009; Masi et al., 201; Steptoe, Shankar, Demakakos, & Wardle, 2013).

A literature review was conducted to identify aging in place programs that address social isolation in older adults. Based on the results of the literature, a product entitled The Friendly Neighbor: Community Programming for Socially Isolated Older Adults was developed. This product is designed to provide a resource for occupational therapists to assess which aging in place programs may be the best to implement in their community. It contains a summary of the benefits, challenges, setting, participants, cost-effectiveness, and outcomes of each program. The product includes descriptions of community programs, table summaries of the aging in place programs previously discussed, a step by step guide for application of the PEO model, and a resource section. Occupational therapists can use this resource to compare characteristics of various aging in place programs to create an evidence-based program that will meet the specific needs of the community they are working with. It is proposed that these programs can be effectively used to help older adults build social networks and increase social participation in their community.

Social isolation is a prevalent and often overlooked issue in community-dwelling older adults. This issue falls within the practice of occupational therapy, and occupational therapists have the skills necessary to create and implement community-based programs to address this issue (AOTA, 2016; Bacsu et al., 2012; Smallfield, Haag, Poston, Giger, Anderson, 2014; Dickens et al., 2011; Steultjens et al., 2004; Vogelsang, 2016). The purpose of this project was to support the implementation of aging in place programs to reduce the prevalence of social isolation in older adults that wish to remain in their homes as they age.

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