Staying Independent and Active as a Senior (ADLs)

When we look at staying independent and active as a senior there are some questions we can ask:

  1. Can we measure how much independence a senior is capable of?
  2. Does this information help get coverage thorough healthcare if a senior is not independent?


What are ways of staying independent and active as a senior?

We love independence! We need it for survival, we need it to avoid the feeling of being a burden on someone, and for self-esteem and happiness. As part of aging, a senior is often challenged on this point. So are people who are faced with physical disabilities.

Seniors who want to stay independent as they age, might use some of these ideas:


  • Keep up social ties
  • Give and receive help and advice when needed
  • Focus on exercise to stay supple
  • Healthy eating for healthy digestion and cognition
  • Choose simple clothing with easy fasteners
  • Use smartphone apps to simplify tasks


If a senior is managing these and other tasks independently, then, good for them.

If not, then the senior, their family or healthcare provider needs to look for an assessment.


When a senior is having trouble with daily tasks

The occupational therapist (OT) is often the healthcare professional who assesses patients. The OT also teaches the skills a person needs to rebuild or get back their independence following injury, health or age-related factors.

A complete geriatric care assessment is done by a multi-disciplinary team.


The basic questions that need an answer are as follows.

  • How well can the adult independently care for their needs?
  • What needs to be topped up through outside help?



What are the Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)?

The original concept and list was put forward by Sidney Katz  in the 1950’s. It has since been adapted.

There are a number of different lists of Activities of Daily Living (ADL), these include different tasks that a person might do on a daily basis.

Since we are all individuals, there is some leeway, and what is actually an ADL can differ from person to person.

Generally ADLs include the following:


  • Eating
  • Bathing and grooming
  • Dressing
  • Using the bathroom
  • Transferring/Mobility (into and out of a bed or chair)
  • Continence


The ADLs  are often further divided into Basic Activities of Daily Living and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living.

The latter category includes items that we need in order to live normally in society:

Examples are:


  • Ability to manage money
  • Medication management
  • Shopping
  • Work/employability
  • Leisure
  • Keeping home



How does this Information Help with Healthcare Costs?

Medicare, Medicaid and private long-term care insurance companies assess how a person functions, by ability to perform the ADLs.

This can apply to people who are seniors, face disability or, following injury.

According to Medicare Resources:

Medicare will cover medical costs, but not the costs of custodial care

So, seniors in a nursing home would not get coverage for the nursing home costs, but would get coverage for any necessary medical care while they are there.

A senior who has low assets or a low income, would qualify for coverage of custodial care.


To conclude, we see that it is possible to ‘measure’ how independent a senior or other adult is.

The advantages of doing so include, identifying the care choices needed as well as possibly getting coverage for medical or custodial care costs.

Staying independent and active as a senior is always going to be a senior’s goal. If a person cannot manage that any more, it is helpful to make an assessment and acquire the necessary assistance.



Staying independent and active as a senior

Shopping and dressing in an acceptable manner are some of the things you want to see in a senior.

Photo by Lauren Fleischmann on Unsplash