The value of occupational therapy services in old age homes

Posted on June 27, 2022

Ageing is a physiologically inevitable process with chronological, social and psychological dimensions. [1] Elderly people experience physiological and physical changes that may restrict them from participating in certain activities of daily living. [1] Not being able to participate in previous activities of daily living due to these changes leads to individuals feeling unhappy and has negative effects on their quality of life. [1]

In order for elderly people to experience optimal social participation and quality of life, we as occupational therapy practitioners need to understand the important role that physical functions play in these occupations. [1]

The final year occupational therapy (OT) students at the University of Pretoria are required to work for six weeks at different sites across Tshwane as part of their Community block. I was placed at Daspoort Polyclinic as a base and provided Occupational Therapy services to nearby communities. One of the communities I provided services to was Holy Cross Old age home. Holy Cross is a residential frail care centre based in Suiderberg, Pretoria.  There were four students who conducted sessions at the residence from Tuesdays to Fridays.

After conducting a needs and resource analysis, we realised that the residents do not engage in any leisure or physical activities, except for sessions on Mondays with one of the Holy Cross sisters, when the OT students are not there. Instead, they spend most of their days in their rooms, sleeping or watching tv.

Based on our analysis, our treatment approach mainly focused on maintaining functional range of motion in the upper and lower extremities, to stimulate constructive use of leisure time, to stimulate social interaction among the residents and also to stimulate motivation to participate in meaningful daily activities. This was done by engaging the residents in activities such as sports, games and crafts.

In the few weeks that we have conducted sessions at Holy Cross, there was a remarkable change in the residents' mood and motivation. Providing the residents with the opportunity to engage in leisure and physical activities has positively affected their mental and physical health. Residents would show up way too early for the sessions, participate optimally, elaborate more during feedback and also started initiating conversations among each other.

Occupational Therapy services are valuable in these settings as the profession focuses on determining how the person, their occupations and environment is interlinked, how it affects a person's occupational performance, and finds the appropriate solutions to the identified barriers.


1. Altuntas O, Torpil B, Uyanik M. Occupational Therapy for Elderly People. Huri M, editor. Intech; 2017.

- Author Bernalee Herbert (final year occupational therapy student) and Nthabiseng Phalatse (Lecturer)
Published by Boitumelo Kube

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