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What’s Hot in Aging Research

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What’s Hot in Aging Research

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I recently had the opportunity to attend a conference at the Andrus Gerontology Center on “What’s Hot in Aging Research.” Some of this won’t be new to you, but I learned that demographic trends are such that, although the rate of Alzheimer’s cases is not changing, the number of people who are expected to have Alzheimer’s disease is exploding. That’s because the boomers are coming of geriatric age now! And, as you know, because of the work Dr. Laura Gitlin and her colleagues have been doing in establishing the efficacy of occupational therapy for people with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers, we are shovel ready to meet this societal need. Also, as the boomers become older, I learned from Dr. Margaret Gatz, Professor of Psychology at USC, that we may have some new challenges. For example, we have to think about whether boomers as they age will: 1) be prone to substance abuse; 2) show less resilience than older people in past cohorts; and 3) be more impaired because of the vascular risk factors associated with being overweight or having diabetes. We also have to wonder whether, as a profession, we will be able to meet the anticipated growing need for services. I think these issues and trends call out to us to develop the critical mass of well-qualified practitioners required. How about getting prepared!

  • Of course... that will dramatically shift the supply and demand curve between seniors with dementia and Alzheimer's and qualified OT's who can help these people.  Like the recent news about autism (as the prevalence rate could be much higher than what the current prevalence rate claims to be), the question is- can the profession produce enough quality occupational therapy professionals to assist the growing needs of these populations?  If not, what can the profession do to get more future occupational therapists into the fold?

  • Yes, thank heaven for the work Laura Gitlin and her colleagues have been doing for decades now!  Also, here at Brenau University, four students did an excellent thesis comparing OT intervention with psychology paper and pencil intervention with seniors with mild cognitive impairment.  Using SPRE (the new semi-parametric ratio estimator) they were able to make predictions and found an edge of efficacy for OT.  This should, of course, be repeated with a larger data set.

    One strong result across predictions for both treatments is that all participants showed continued improvement with continued therapy. Now we can show, statistically, that a two week in-and-out treatment with OT is not enough to prevent decline into dementia.

    I really appreciate your blog, Florence.  It's an important communication link.