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Dependency in Older Adults

There have been no published studies examining in- dividual differences in level of dependency in older adults. However, research suggests that, in general, older adults tend to exhibit more pronounced depen- dency needs than do younger adults. To some extent, the higher levels of dependency shown by older adults relative to younger adults reflects the fact that older adults as a group are more dependent on others to carry out tasks associated with daily living (e.g., cook- ing, shopping, driving).

In this context, it is not sur- prising to learn that those older adults who live in environments which encourage autonomy and inde- pendence tend to show lower levels of dependency than do those older adults who live in environments where passivity and dependency are permitted or en- couraged. Several investigations have demonstrated that changes in older adults’ frequency of dependent behaviors can be traced directly to the contingencies which characterize the environments in which they live: Environments that directly or indirectly encour- age the overt expression of dependency needs (e.g., certain nursing home environments and residential treatment facilities) actually appear to cause signifi- cant, long-term increases in the dependency levels of older adults.

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