As you age, you will probably struggle with certain tasks that you once did without a second thought. However, this doesn’t mean that losing your independence as you age is completely inevitable. Below, we explain why it’s so important for elderly people to maintain independence and then offer tips for doing just that.
Why Is Maintaining Independence Important?
Staying independent as you age offers many benefits: physical, mental and emotional. The most obvious benefit of staying independent is that you don’t need help with basic everyday tasks such as showering, getting dressed and feeding yourself. This also helps you maintain your dignity and self-esteem, as many adults really struggle with needing help with taking care of themselves, especially if their mental faculties remain as sharp as ever.
Maintaining your independence also makes it easier to stay connected to family and friends, which is critical for fending off the isolation and loneliness that many adults experience. After all, it’s easier to see your friends or make it to your book club meeting if you can drive yourself. Maintaining independence also makes it easier to stay active and maintain your physical stamina and flexibility, which helps you stay healthier for longer. It also helps keep your mind sharp and gives your brain a workout as well.
Finally, staying independent will help you maintain a sense of control and purpose over your life. This is really important because seniors can feel at a loss once they retire and they no longer have as many demands on their time. Suddenly, they have many long days ahead of them filled with no obligations. And while this may sound nice at first, it can make seniors feel like they’re not contributing to society anymore. These feelings are compounded if they need help taking care of themselves, which can make them feel like a burden to their families and/or society.
If you’re currently still capable of taking care of yourself, but your adult children keep hovering around to “help” or are urging you to move into a senior living facility, then sit down with them and have a talk about what you are and aren’t capable of. Express why it’s important that you maintain as much of your independence for as long as possible and ask them to partner with you in that goal. It will be easier to maintain your independence if your entire support group is on the same page and aware of what help you do and don’t need.
Tip for Maintaining Your Independence
So how exactly can you stay independent as you age? “Maintaining independence” varies from senior to senior and depends on both their mental and physical abilities as well as what resources are available to them. Here are some suggestions for ways that you can maintain your independence:
- Upgrade your house so you can age in place. Staying in your own home as long as possible will create continuity and make it easier to maintain a sense of control over your life. Sometimes, these updates are small, such as placing special grips on round door knobs, while others are more involved, such as replacing your tub with a walk-in shower.
- Make it easier to get dressed with senior clothing. Elastic waist pants for elderly women are easier to put on then something with zippers and buttons, and Velcro shoes for women bypass the issue of laces altogether.
- Stay active physically with low impact workouts such as walking and yoga. Your doctor might also prescribe specific physical therapy exercises to help you maintain mobility or to regain it after surgery.
- Give your brain a workout. Your mind needs to be exercised just like your body. Crossword puzzles, sudoku and other activities will keep your mind sharp and help you pass the time. Try out several different activities until you find one that you enjoy, as you’ll be more likely to stick with it.
- Seek out social support from others. Stay in touch with your family members as well as your friends. Make it a point to go to bingo night, book club meetings and other social events that you get invited to. If you feel up to it, you can also host your own events.
- Try out new activities. The great thing about retirement is that you finally have time to pursue all those hobbies you haven’t been able to get around to. Most areas have classes specifically designed for seniors in subjects ranging from painting to cooking. You might learn a new skill and make a new friend.
- Consider automating your home. Technology such as smart thermostats, automatic light bulbs and voice-activated speakers can make it easier to stay in your home for longer. A security system and/or senior medical alert system can also help keep you safe in case of an emergency. Accordingly, you can learn more about most of the different alarm systems home owners can purchase by taking a look at some of the useful resources on the Verisure website.
- Create structure for yourself. While not having a schedule may sound freeing, many seniors dislike having such a lack of structure in their lives. Creating a daily, weekly and monthly schedule for yourself will help give your days a rhythm and make the days more productive.
- Find a reminder system that works for you. As you get older, you have a lot of things that you need to remember – from recurring tasks such as paying bills and taking medication to one-off ads such as buying post-surgery clothing before a procedure. Create a reminder system that works for you, whether that’s setting up alerts on your phone or keeping a paper planner. This will help you keep track of everything and make it easier to stay independent for longer.
Losing your independence as you age doesn’t have to be inevitable. Try out these strategies for maintaining your independence as you age.