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Primary Focus: Mental Health

Secondary Focus: Productive Aging

Learning Objectives:

1. Describe the impact of depression in older adults living in the community and in institutions.

2. Identify the methods used to research supporting literature.

3. Explain interventions related to quality of life and decreasing depressive symptoms.

4. Understand and discuss implications of findings for occupational therapy practice


Occupational therapists provide services for older adults in various settings, including community and institutional care. The percentage of older adults at risk for experiencing depression is 13.5% in home healthcare and 11.5% in institutions (Center for Disease Control, 2012). Occupational therapists work with older adults, using everyday activities and establishing routines, to address deficits in life satisfaction, self-concept, health and functioning in older adults. Evaluating which occupational therapy interventions are most effective in decreasing depressive symptoms and improving quality of life (QoL) will benefit clients as well as occupational therapy practice in its entirety.

A systematic search was performed to identify current evidence in healthcare that supports effective interventions to improve QoL and decrease depressive symptoms in older adults. Electronic databases, including CINAHL, PubMed, Scopus and OVID, were searched and a total of 20 articles were extracted for a final review. Articles included in this systematic review met the inclusion criteria of location (institution- SNF, assisted living, LTC, hospitals, Community dwelling- house, living with spouse, living with family, apartment, residential), age 55+, published from 2008-2014, peer-reviewed, evidence-based, used specific intervention, and measured depression. Articles were critiqued using the Law & MacDermid’s Evaluation of Quality of an Intervention Study form (2014). The reviewed articles discussed the effectiveness of both non-psychosocial and psychosocial OT interventions such as journaling, exercise groups, gardening, yoga, animal assisted therapy and humor group. Novel activities, social participation within groups, volition, personal reflection, and length of intervention were identified themes for synthesis. The evidence highlighted effective and novel interventions as well as challenged conventional practices for increasing QoL and decreasing depressive symptoms. Utilizing this research establishes scientific support for the efficacy of our practice, and justifies the need for further research in the effectiveness of these interventions in OT.

Presentation: 55 minutes (no audio for this recording, only PowerPoint slides)