Activities of Daily Living and Its ImportanceSkip to content

Activities of Daily Living for Seniors 

Published: Dec 29, 2022. Last Updated: Jan 5, 2023.

As people age, the ability to perform everyday tasks may begin to decline. This can often lead to seniors requiring assistance with activities of daily living, or ADLs. These are the basic tasks everyone does every day. These can be anything from getting dressed and brushing teeth, to eating and using the bathroom without assistance. Aside from these, there are also instrumental activities of daily living or IADLs which involve more complex tasks that sometimes require organizational skills, spatial awareness, or critical thinking ability -- and they are sometimes more physically demanding.

ADLs and IADLs are often the first sign that a senior is in need of additional care. While some level of assistance is typically provided by family members or caregivers, seniors need to be able to assess their own needs and identify when more help is needed.

What are ADLs?

Activities of daily living (ADLs) are basic activities that are performed on a daily basis. These ADLs such as bathing, dressing oneself, and eating independently - become more difficult with age. According to the CDC, advanced age complicates daily tasks that are otherwise considered easy and innocuous. In fact, adults aged 75 years or older are three times more likely to have issues performing ADLs than those aged 65-74[1]

These are the main ADLs typically assessed for seniors in order to determine whether they are still able to accomplish them independently or if they require assistance.

  • Eating: Ability to feed oneself food and drink beverages
  • Bathing: Ability to wash oneself completely
  • Dressing: Ability to put on clothing and accessories independently
  • Toileting: Ability to use the bathroom without assistance
  • Continence: Ability to control bladder and bowel functions
  • Mobility: The ability to move around safely and independently, such as getting in and out of bed or transferring from one surface to another. This also includes the use of assistive devices such as walkers and canes.

What are IADLs?

Instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) are more complex activities that involve a combination of physical, cognitive, and organizational skills. These tasks require more sophisticated abilities and some level of independence. Unlike ADLs, IADLs are not considered essential for independent living; however, they can still indicate a need for additional support or care.

These are the main IADLs typically assessed:

  • Grocery shopping: Ability to find and purchase groceries independently
  • Meal preparation: Ability to prepare meals without assistance
  • Housekeeping and home maintenance: Cleaning kitchens after eating, maintaining living areas reasonably clean and tidy, and keeping up with home maintenance.
  • Managing finances: Ability to manage money, pay bills, and handle banking tasks
  • Using transportation: Ability to get around without relying on others
  • Managing communication with others: Ability to use technological devices such as computers and smartphones. to manage telephone and mail.
  • Managing medications: Ability to obtain medications and take them as directed.

Importance of ADLs

Independent living is an essential part of healthy aging. ADLs are a crucial indicator of seniors’ ability to care for themselves and carry out their daily activities without assistance. Having the ability to perform these tasks independently helps them to maintain a sense of control over their lives, improves their quality of life, and lowers their risk of disability or long-term care needs.

But ADLs aren't just important for individuals. They also have a ripple effect on society as a whole. For example, the ability to live independently in homes and communities can help reduce the burden on healthcare systems and long-term care facilities. It can also allow aging in place and maintain independence for as long as possible.

So how can you optimize our ADLs and support a healthy lifestyle? Here are a few tips:

  • Prioritize self-care. Make sure to set aside time for self-care activities such as bathing, grooming, and exercising.
  • Stay active. Incorporate physical activity into your daily routine through tasks such as walking, stretching, and lifting weights.
  • Eat a balanced diet. Make sure to eat a variety of nutritious foods and stay hydrated to support your physical and mental health.
  • Stay organized. Keep your home and personal space organized to make it easier to complete ADLs and reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Seek support. If you're having trouble with ADLs, don't be afraid to ask for help. This could include seeking assistance from a family member or hiring a home care worker.

Causes for Limitations in ADLs

There are a variety of reasons that can lead to an elder experiencing limitations in their ability to complete activities of daily living. Let's take a look at some of the causes that can lead to it:

Physical Disabilities

Physical disabilities can impede a person's ability to complete ADLs. Examples of physical disabilities include cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, and other conditions that impair muscle strength or range of motion. Musculoskeletal problems such as arthritis, back injuries, and fibromyalgia can also be a source of limitations in activities of daily living.

Cognitive or Mental Decline

The decline in cognitive or mental abilities can also lead to difficulty in completing ADLs. For example, Dementia and Alzheimer's diseases are two conditions that cause memory and other brain-related impairments that can make it difficult for seniors to complete basic tasks. Other conditions such as traumatic brain injury, stroke, depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder can all lead to limitations in performing everyday activities.

Sensory Impairment

Seniors with sensory impairments, such as vision and hearing loss, may find it difficult to complete ADLs due to their lack of input from the environment. For example, a blind person may struggle to perform household tasks or cook meals due to their inability to see what they are doing.

Bodies become weak as people age,, which causes performance of activities of daily living harder. This is due to a variety of reasons such as decreased muscle strength, reduced mobility, and cognitive decline. Additionally, chronic medical conditions may further reduce a seniors's ability to complete ADLs.

Environmental Factors

Certain environmental factors can also be a cause of limitations in activities of daily living. These include poverty, lack of access to transportation, limited resources, and social isolation. All of these can contribute to difficulty in completing everyday tasks.

In addition to the causes listed above, certain lifestyle choices can lead to limitations in activities of daily living., like smoking, excessive alcohol use, and a sedentary lifestyle. It is important to recognize the causes that can lead to limitations in performing activities of daily living so you can take appropriate interventions needed.



Related Articles

About the Author

Ericka Nicolas

Writer & Researcher

Elder Guide LLC

Ericka Nicolas began her career in the banking industry where she learned the importance of being detail-oriented and well-organized, both of which she applies to her current work as a writer and proofreader. With her vast experience in writing, Ericka is able to produce well-researched and engaging content that appeals to Elderguide's target audience. She was able to provide readers with valuable insights on a variety of topics and ensures that all the information she provides is accurate and up-to-date. She takes the time to carefully study each topic given to her, which allows her to produce truly informative articles. Ericka's passion for writing and her dedication to producing quality content gave way to her goal of helping our readers navigate the complex world of senior living and make informed decisions about their future. Aside from her work at Elderguide, Ericka enjoys spending time with her newly-married husband and their dog, Yari. She loves cooking, traveling, and exploring new restaurants in her spare time.