You have probably noticed that America is getting older. By 2060, 24% of the overall population of the United States will be over 65 years old. The number of people over 65 is projected to double: today, it’s 46 million; in 2060, that population will likely number over 98 million.
These numbers represent significant changes and challenges when it comes to caring for retirees in the long term. That’s why the sheer scope of this demographic change is driving an ever-increasing demand for well-trained, professional occupational therapists.
What Is an Occupational Therapist?
Occupational therapists are licensed healthcare professionals and problem solvers, first and foremost. Clients usually have very specific needs or desires they need help with. For example, they may want to recover skills after a trauma or ensure independent living as they age. As an occupational therapist, you would help clients and patients achieve those goals using evidence-based treatment plans that incorporate meaningful activities.
Demographics Creating a Need
According to Burning Glass Technologies, demand for occupational therapists is expected to rise by 26.6% over the next 7-8 years, which is much faster than the national average across all occupations. While occupational therapists are in high demand among all age groups, our rapidly changing demographics are creating a significant and important need.
According to the most recent projections, people are getting older and they’re becoming more isolated. The overall number of people in the United States over 65 is expected to double over the next forty years. This group will be more ethnically diverse and will be composed of more unmarried individuals than ever before.
As Baby Boomers age, they will require significant care to maintain their independence–which many of them are understandably determined to do. As an occupational therapist, you could help and empower clients and patients to:
- Stay in their homes longer by helping them to manage day-to-day tasks in a way that is safe.
- Plan for and perform routine tasks and functions.
- Practice necessary functions in a safe and therapeutic way.
Cases of memory-related ailments such as Alzheimer’s are projected to triple by 2050. This creates a significant need for compassionate, qualified occupational therapists who can help those suffering from memory loss, Alzheimer’s, or dementia. The right kind of occupational therapy can significantly benefit patients and clients who require memory care.
As an occupational therapist, you could help Alzheimer’s patients and their families:
- Develop plans to cope with unexpected or difficult behavior.
- Improve safety around a client’s residence.
- Suggest or design interventions and activities that the client can do together with his or her family.
- Provide therapies and plans to help maintain the structure of everyday lift.
You would work with clients with memory loss and their caregivers in order to make sure they are able to maintain the highest quality of life possible.
How Will More Occupational Therapists Help?
Just as with other healthcare professionals, good occupational therapy relies on being able to spend the requisite time and energy on your client. The more clients and patients you have, the less time you have for each one. That’s why most occupational therapists prefer to maintain a specific number of clients or patients, the exact number of which will change depending on the type of occupational therapy you might practice.
With more occupational therapists in the healthcare workforce, more clients and patients will get the attention that they need. This is important, as most patients have diverse needs that require individualized therapies.
A Reliable Career and a Stronger Community
As more and more families find themselves in caregiver roles or part of the “sandwich generation,” the roles of occupational therapists are more important–and more diverse–than ever. Our nation’s aging population will soon put additional stresses on families, communities, and healthcare services, so the need for occupational therapists has never been higher.
The demographics of the near future are driving a demand for occupational therapists today. If you want to know more about how to become an occupational therapist, contact us today to get more information about our Master of Science in Occupational Therapy.
Source: National area labor market data retrieved from Burning Glass Technologies in March 2019