Combating Social Isolation and Loneliness Through Occupational Engagement

2021 Poster ~

John V. Rider, MS, OTR/L, MSCS, CEAS ~ Assistant Professor /  Occupational Therapist ~ School of Occupational Therapy, College of Health and Human Services, Touro University Nevada:
John (Johnny) Rider is an occupational therapist and assistant professor at Touro University Nevada. His clinical practice focuses on community-based therapy, serving the aging population with chronic disease management and fall prevention expertise. Johnny teaches two evidence-based community fall prevention programs: Tai Ji Quan Moving for Better Balance and Stepping On. He currently works for Good Life Therapy providing community-based occupational therapy for adults and older adults throughout Southern Nevada.

Shannon Martin, OTR/L, OTD, BCG ~ Associate Professor and Doctoral Capstone Coordinator ~ School of Occupational Therapy, Touro University Nevada:
Shannon Martin is an occupational therapist and associate professor at Touro University Nevada. She is board certified in gerontology from the American Occupational Therapy Association. Shannon Martin is involved in the community with the evidence-based, multifactorial fall prevention program Stepping On as a leader and master trainer and serves as chair of the Nevada Goes Falls Free Coalition.

While social isolation, loneliness, and reduced engagement in meaningful activities were prevalent among older adults before COVID-19, efforts to reduce the spread of the virus through stay-at-home orders, quarantine, and systemic social distancing recommendations have exacerbated an already severe problem. Social isolation, loneliness, and sedentary behavior have been shown to have a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of all people. Occupational therapy as a profession recognizes these concerns and strives to assess loneliness and social isolation and increase engagement in meaningful occupations (i.e., activities) to address these concerns and support individuals in productive aging in place. Occupational therapists address all aspects of aging, from wellness strategies to rehabilitation and recovery, focusing on function and keeping older adults safe and independent in the activities that bring meaning to their lives. This poster will describe occupational therapy's role in addressing social isolation, loneliness, and reduced occupational engagement using the occupational experience profile. The occupational experience profile (OEP) is an occupation-focused time-use diary designed to help individuals become aware of what they are currently doing and experiencing in everyday life and how those daily activities and experiences impact health and wellbeing. The OEP initiates a discussion about the personal meanings associated with daily activities and helps older adults identify activities that bring pleasure, make them feel productive, provide restoration to the body or soul, or involve some form of social connection. By recording and reflecting on current routines, habits, and roles, older adults can better identify meaningful activities that contribute to their experience of pleasure (enjoying/non-enjoyment), productivity (accomplishment/non-accomplishment), restoration (energy renewal/energy drain), and social connectedness (connection/disconnection). By framing discussions with older adults within the context of these experiences, professionals can help combat social isolation, loneliness and identify ways to improve engagement in meaningful occupations to live life to the fullest. Now, more than ever, engagement in meaningful occupations is necessary for good health and wellbeing. This poster will provide practical strategies for discussing daily routines in the context of the OEP to assist professionals engaging with older adults during the pandemic.