We have all heard an elderly friend or relative say, “don’t get old.” They may have forgotten a word, or felt an ache in the knees when they tried to stand. We usually respond with a smile and a laugh, or the words, “I don’t have much choice!” But as young healthy adults we probably don’t consider or appreciate all the challenges of growing older. We certainly consider the physical and medical challenges – like aching knees or cholesterol medication. But keeping in mind the mental challenges of aging can be tough for a young healthy adult, and the biggest challenge we must keep in mind when dealing with our elderly friends and family is independence.
Independence in Old Age
Surveys have shown over and over that the elderly population wants to live independently and stay in their own homes as long as possible as they age. This can become a challenge due to physical or mental constraints that come about due to aging. But as family, friends, and caregivers to these seniors, there are many things we can do to help them maintain a sense of independence even when the senior cannot live the exact independent life they are used to.
Supporting Older People’s Independent Living
There are some easy things you can do to help the elderly person in your life maintain their independence. First and foremost, keep them involved in as much of the decision-making process as possible. This can include big decisions like health care, and small decisions like what clothes to wear. We all know how unpleasant it can be when it feels like you don’t have a choice, so don’t fall into the trap of assuming your elderly loved one can’t make any of their own decisions.
Maintaining physical strength and balance will also help your senior loved ones keep their independence. There are simple exercises and activities that can be done at home to help build strength and flexibility. Staying active and moving can help with memory as well.
One of the most important things that helps older adults maintain their independence is having a purpose. Without a job or children to take care of, a senior may feel they have no purpose or direction in life. There are many things you can do to help. A pet could provide companionship for the elderly. They could try gardening or art classes specifically designed for the elderly. A goal and something to look forward to keeps depression at bay and gives purpose.
Home Care Services
For the senior that wants to remain in their home as long as possible, there are many forms of assistance that can help. You may need someone to drop by during the day to check in on your loved one while you are at work. They can keep the senior company and check on things at home. They could take them to doctor’s appointments, or take them shopping or to an event to get them out of the house. There are services that can come and provide personal care services, like assistance with bathing and dressing. There are even services that can live with the elderly person 24/7, so they can stay at home in comfort. When considering the importance of independence in elderly adults, it is key to remember that help is always available.