Objectives. This study extends previous research that contrasted occupational forms with elderly persons living in institutions to include elderly women living independently. In addition to differences in number of repetitions elicited, the current study measured heart rate response and perceived rest period duration.

Method. Forty-five women over the age of 65 years were randomly assigned to one of three occupational forms: materials based (kicking a balloon), imagery based (kicking an imaginary balloon), and rote exercise (performing a kicking movement without a balloon or imagery prompt). Subjects were instructed to perform the assigned lower-extremity movement until they fatigued and after a self-determined period of rest indicated when they felt able to do another set of movements. Dependent variables included number of repetitions of movement, heart rate (at baseline, at completion of movements, at end of rest period), duration of movement, and self-perceived rest period. Group means for each variable were compared using analyses of variance.

Results. Groups showed no significant difference in baseline and demographic data. Subjects in the materials-based occupational form performed significantly more repetitions and required a significantly longer self-perceived rest period than subjects in the imagery-based and rote exercise forms. There were no significant differences among the groups for heart rate response. Duration of movement and number of repetitions variables were strongly correlated (r = .95), indicating lack of independence.

Conclusions. The materials-based occupational form elicited a quantitatively different performance than the other forms. Given the relatively fuller experience (i.e., interaction with an object, clear objective) of the materials-based form, an occupational form that has added meaning for the person appears to result in enhanced performance when compared with forms that lack strong meaning and suggest more limited purposes.

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