COVID-19 Updates
June 1, 2021

ADLs and IADLs: What Are They?

If you’ve been considering senior living support, you may come across some terms you’ve never heard before, like ADLs and IADLs. These are categories of activities for daily living that can make a big difference in your retirement. 

An ADL/IADL assessment may become a regular part of our check-ups as we age, but it is important to understand how they impact our health and safety. 

Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)

This acronym defines a category of tasks for daily living that are required to take care of someone’s basic needs. These tasks are a great way to identify how well we can take care of ourselves independently. Depending on how well you can perform each task determines what level of care you may need. 

A great resource to review is the Government of Canada’s veterans’ ADL table, but if you’re looking for a quick overview, here is a list:

  • Mobility such as getting up from sitting down
  • Eating
  • Personal hygiene
  • Dressing
  • Locomotion like walking and taking stairs
  • Bowel and bladder control

Determining your level of independence according to ADLs will determine if independent living, assisted living, memory care, or nursing care is best suited for your situation. ADLs are the basic framework for ensuring you’re safe to live independently.

Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs)

IADLs are more complex activities of daily living that require more planning and thinking to take care of yourself and your home. How well you can perform these tasks is used to determine if you can age in place safely. Depending on this measurement, doctors can gauge what level of support you may need, if any. Here are some examples of IADLs:

  • Taking medication as prescribed
  • House cleaning and laundry
  • Using the phone (answering and calling others)
  • Cooking, planning, and serving your own meals
  • Personal finances such as managing money and paying bills
  • Transportation to get around on your own (car, taxi, public transport)
  • Shopping for groceries, clothing, and other necessities

Depending on how you perform IADLs, your doctor may recommend continuing to live at home, aging in place renovations, transitioning to an independent living community, or hiring an at-home nurse.


As we age, our routine check-ups will begin to include an ADL assessment. These assessments are crucial for preventing future injuries or incidents such as breaking a hip from falling or hitting your head while running to the washroom in the middle of the night. Not only will your practitioner ask you to perform the tasks below, but he/she may also ask if you have changed how you perform these tasks.

  • Unbutton and button your shirt
  • Walk back and forth
  • Move from sitting to standing
  • Keep your balance while you stand or walk
  • Removing and putting on your shoes

It is normal to be nervous about changes as we age, but these assessments are essential for our health and safety. It is important to note these are not tests that you can “pass” or “fail,” but rather a way to adjust your lifestyle to continue living a healthy and safe life.

So next time you’re at your doctor’s office, consider requesting an ADL/IADL assessment. Being proactive with your health and safety is the best way to live a long life full of vitality!

If you are considering senior living options, we encourage you to view our member directory and find a senior living community in British Columbia that can help you lead a safe and fulfilling retirement.

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