Older adults are at increased risk for a variety of physical and functional limitations that threaten their ability to lead independent and fulfilling lives. Consequently, they stand to benefit from personalized strategies of adaptation that enable them to achieve successful outcomes in their daily activities and desired goals. In the current investigation, a qualitative descriptive methodology was used to document the perceived life domain of importance and associated strategies of adaptation of 29 residents of Angelus Plaza, a federally subsidized apartment complex in downtown Los Angeles for low-income, well older adults. On the basis of interview data, 10 life domains were identified, and within each domain, a typology of adaptive strategies was derived. The domains were activities of daily living (ADL), adaptation to a multicultural environment, free time usage, grave illness and death–spirituality, health maintenance, mobility maintenance, personal finances, personal safety, psychological well-being and happiness, and relationships with others. Although the typology should not be generalized to a geriatric population, therapists may wish to refer to it to gain a sense of the extent to which certain adaptive strategies may be applicable to the lives of particular older adults to whom they deliver services. The teaching of these adaptive strategies could then be incorporated into an individualized treatment plan.

The typology also provides a broad picture of the kinds of adaptive strategies used by the older adults as a way of coping and adapting to their setting. Although some of the domains do not differ from those typically addressed in occupational therapy textbooks on geriatric care (e.g., ADL, health maintenance), others seem uniquely tailored to the specifics of the Angelus Plaza context (e.g., personal safety). Finally, certain domains emerged that may be highly relevant to older adults in most settings but are not typically the focus of occupational therapy programs (e.g., grave illness and death–spirituality, relationships with others). The emergence of these domains from our data suggests that therapists may wish to consider them more in treatment if they are convinced that they possess local relevance.

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