Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

The (Re)habilitation Needs of the Older Non-Disabled Handicapped Person: Expanding the Role of the Rehabilitation Professional

Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

The (Re)habilitation Needs of the Older Non-Disabled Handicapped Person: Expanding the Role of the Rehabilitation Professional

Article excerpt

The (Re)habilitation Needs of the Older Non-disabled Handicapped Person: Expanding the Role of the Rehabilitation Professional

Introduction

Many older persons of our society may be considered handicapped. Because of the gap in community services to older persons (Benedict & Ganikos, 1981; Blake 1981; Bozarth, 1981; Bahcall & Bervin, 1986), and the attitudinal barriers and misconceptions this population faces (Harris & Associates, 1975; McTavish, 1971), they are susceptible to various stereotypes and negative attitudes that exist towards them which can produce handicapping effects (Benedict & Ganikos, 1981; Salmon, 1981; Thomas, 1981). Therefore, the individual may begin to assume a sick and dependent role, lose previously held coping skills, and label him/herself as deficient (Bengtson, 1973).

At the beginning of this decade, Kleff (1980) examined past policies, programs, and services for persons who are elderly and gave his perception of future needs for older persons in the eighties and beyond. Emphasis was placed on the importance of developing innovative approaches and services to meet the medical, health, and social needs of older persons with the intent of educating society's perceptions of old age, and the perceptions of older persons themselves.

The challenge to develop innovative approaches and services should be embraced by all rehabilitation professionals. Rehabilitation is the facilitative and restorative process which provides individuals with the services necessary to meet their fullest physical, mental, social, vocational and economic usefulness (Wright, 1980). Professionals in rehabilitation are the experts who possess the tools, the philosophy and ability to coordinate and/or assist in the delivery of such services (Barry, 1981). As such, we must seek to modify our current rehabilitative approaches and cultivate new strategies and approaches towards intervention (Barry, 1981; Blake, 1981; Williams, 1981; Bozarth, 1981; Bahcall & Bervin, 1986; Trieschmann, 1987) with the expectation of circumventing both physical and mental disabling conditions (Knight & Walker, 1985; Dowd & Dowd, 1981; Jernigan, 1981). Rehabilitation professionals must also become instrumental in equipping older persons with the tools necessary for dealing with their perceived handicapping conditions (Edinberg, 1985; Kleff, 1980).

For the rehabilitation specialist, nontraditional or innovative rehabilitation programs might include those programs which: address the debilitating effects of ageism through service provision strategies, and are preventive in nature; embrace a total health maintenance orientation or approach (health, fitness, and rehabilitative needs); and offer services outside of traditional health care settings (e.g. hospitals, private office, community mental health center).

Defining the Population

A first step in establishing services for older non-disabled persons is that of defining the population. Many agencies and programs use 65 as their definition of aged (Blake, 1981). While one's chronological age is useful in determining eligibility for services, our greatest concern should be with capabilities or potential rather than with limitations set arbitrarily because of age (Blake, 1981). Therefore, in addition to chronological age, the older person is that individual who first accepts the stereotypes of aging or ageism, and then eventually experiences physical, emotional, and/or psychological breakdown as a result of that acceptance. Thus, losing previously held coping skills. Although necessary, chronological age is not an automatic prerequisite for classification. Rather, the emphasis is on the individual's attitude toward their own aging.

The Need for Innovative Services

For the rehabilitation professional, nontraditional or innovative rehabilitation programs might include those programs which are:

1) Preventative in nature. …

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