April is Occupational Therapy Month! The primary goal of Occupational Therapy is to ensure individual autonomy in regards to the routine activities of daily living. These are the things most of us take for granted, like bathing, dressing, eating and cooking. The Occupational Therapist’s main objective is to confirm functional independence for their patients while preserving their highest degree of dignity.
As we age, it is important that we continue to maintain an adequate level of independence and our ability to perform activities of daily living on our own. Occupational therapy exercises for seniors focus on activities that allow you to maintain and even increase your range of motion and upper body strength.
According to the British Association of Occupational Therapists and College of Occupational Therapists, specific activities focus on helping you overcome physical, mental or social problems as a result of disability or aging. As always, consult your primary care physician or occupational therapist before performing any exercise regimen.
Here are some basic Occupational Therapy exercises:
Relaxation Exercises: Occupational Therapists often receive referrals from doctors and other health care professionals to treat seniors suffering from mental health issues such as anxiety and stress. They may teach relaxation methods to help alleviate symptoms of stress and anxiety related to certain physical and mental conditions. Specific relaxation methods may include guided visualization or deep breathing.
Deep breathing exercises are easy to perform and can help to reduce stress and tension. To perform a deep breathing exercise, sit on a comfortable chair and close your eyes. Place your hand on your stomach and concentrate on your breath, trying to allow the thoughts to flow out of your mind. Take a deep inhale, pause, and then exhale slowly. Practice this method of breathing whenever you feel tense or anxious.
Range-of-Motion Exercises: This is often helpful for seniors suffering from conditions such as arthritis or other forms of joint and muscle pain. There are various range-of-motion exercises that may help, depending on the origin of your symptoms.
An easy seated exercise that you can perform to increase your range of motion in your legs is the leg extension. Sit in a chair with your hands by your sides and your feet flat on the floor. Slowly extend one leg out in front of you, hold for a few seconds, then repeat on the opposite leg.
Memory Exercises: Memory issues tend to be a common problem for seniors. Occupational Therapists may use a variety of techniques and memory games to help improve your ability to remember certain things, such as your daily routine or how to perform certain activities.
Read, do crossword puzzles or specific arts and crafts projects to help with memory issues. You can find many types of memory exercises online and in specific memory enhancement books for seniors.