Poster Session
Issue Date: August 2016
Published Online: August 01, 2016
Updated: January 01, 2021
Do Sensory Processing Abilities Impact Daily Occupational Engagement Among Older Adults?
Author Affiliations
  • University of Haifa
  • University of Haifa
Article Information
Geriatrics/Productive Aging / Sensory Integration and Processing / Assessment/Measurement
Poster Session   |   August 01, 2016
Do Sensory Processing Abilities Impact Daily Occupational Engagement Among Older Adults?
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, August 2016, Vol. 70, 7011500022.
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, August 2016, Vol. 70, 7011500022.

Date Presented 4/7/2016

Sensory processing abilities and specifically greater sensory seeking predict better occupational engagement in older adults. Occupational therapists should refer to this relationship in research and practice to enhance meaningful engagement in real life among older adults.

Primary Author and Speaker: Batya Engel-Yeger

Additional Author and Speaker: Sara Rosenblum

This study aimed to examine whether sensory processing patterns significantly predict daily occupational engagement among older adults.
RATIONALE: Occupational engagement is essential for preserving physical and mental health in elderly people. Because occupational therapists define their core value in enhancing the person’s occupational engagement and participation, they may benefit from studying body function changes occurring in elderly people, such as changes in sensory processing and the impact on occupational engagement. Sensory processing is required for positive interactions with the physical and social environments. Yet, knowledge concerning the sensory processing patterns in elderly people and their relation to occupational engagement in daily life is limited. The aim of this study was to elaborate this limited information by examining the ability of the unique sensory processing patterns in older adults to predict occupational engagement in instrumental, leisure, and social activities.
DESIGN: This was a comparative and correlative study, based on a convenience sample.
PARTICIPANTS: The study included 180 participants, ages 50–73 yr, who were living independently in their homes, without depression, cognitive impairments, or any systemic severe chronic diseases. Participants were recruited by advertisements published in their neighborhoods.
METHOD: Participants’ demographic information and health status were profiled and then their sensory processing patterns as expressed in daily life were assessed by the Adolescent/Adult Sensory Profile. Scores were obtained for four quadrants based on Dunn’s model: Low Registration, Sensation Seeking, Sensory Sensitivity, and Sensation Avoiding. Occupational engagement was assessed by the Activity Card Sort, which consists of labeled photographs of older people participating in a range of real-life activities divided into three categories: instrumental, leisure, and social. Scores refer to activities performed in the past and in the present and to the ratio between them.
ANALYSIS: Structural equation modeling examined the ability of sensory processing patterns to predict occupational engagement.
RESULTS: A greater seeking tendency predicted higher occupational engagement in instrumental (r = .18, p ≤ .01), social (r = .23, p ≤ .001), and leisure low–high physical demand activities (r = .31, p ≤ .001, and r = .23, p ≤ .001, respectively). Low Registration significantly predicted lower occupational engagement in instrumental activities, and Sensory Sensitivity significantly predicted high physical demand leisure activities.
DISCUSSION: The active pattern of sensory seeking may play a major role in enhancing occupational engagement among older adults. Poorer registration of sensory input and unmodulated sensitivity may also serve as red flags for reduced occupational engagement. Further studies should explore whether this relationship has unique expressions in clinical populations. Practically, occupational therapists should refer to this relationship in the context of daily life and encourage aging people to seek sensations; participate in rich sensory environments; and to maintain functional, meaningful, and healthy aging.
IMPACT STATEMENT: This is one of the first studies to highlight the important contribution of sensory processing abilities to occupational engagement. The study emphasizes sensory red flags that may reduce occupational engagement in older adults. Also, it discusses implications that may advance related research and practice, as relevant evaluations and education and intervention approaches.