Everyone should have the opportunity to live independently with dignity – especially our senior populations. While aging can sometimes make independent living difficult, small supports, such as home wellness solutions and home-delivered meals, can help seniors maintain independence in their own homes.
Independence is important to the physical and mental well being of older adults. As a provider of wraparound programs and services that help older adults stay at home and active in their communities, we want to share some insights with you about how independence and activity benefit us as we age.
Why seniors need independence
Loss of independence can be discouraging to older adults. They have spent their entire lives living independently, working jobs, raising families, and making decisions.
The natural effects of aging can sometimes make independent living harder than it once was. Difficulties with mobility, behavioral health conditions such as isolation and loneliness, and financial strains are just some of the contributors to a loss of independence in aging adults.
While we cannot avoid some barriers to independence, we can take the time to understand the importance of independence in seniors and look for ways to increase opportunities for independent living. The following benefits are common results of senior independence and demonstrate how important it is to empower older adults to live independent lives.
1. Feel like an individual
The ability to make choices throughout the day has a big impact on how you feel about yourself. When you are no longer managing the decisions in your life, you might feel like less of an individual.
Older adults have lived their whole lives with their own personalities and beliefs. If they reach a point when they cannot express themselves, they won’t feel like themselves. These feelings can lead to depression, anger, or destructive behavior, which are damaging to both the senior and his/her caregiver.
Make sure you or your loved one is able to maintain their sense of self in the environment they live in. They should be able to personalize their space with photos and items that reflect the things they care about and enjoy. It’s also beneficial for them to make choices in daily living, like the clothes they wear and the food they eat.
2. Maintain balance and strength
Retaining balance and strength is a huge determining factor in someone’s ability to stay independent. It also motivates older adults to stay active, which may result in health benefits that foster independence.
If strength is not routinely worked on, it’s likely an aging individual will lose muscle mass and core balance. Loss of strength and balance can lead to dangerous falls that leave a senior in a hospital or assisted living facility for a long time. Injuries also make it hard to maintain independence.
Maintaining physical ability is a great way to prevent falls that lead to a long-term loss of independence. Evidence-based prevention programs like SteadyU Ohio’s Matter of Balance teach older adults how to manage falls while building up strength, balance, and confidence. There are also mobility devices that provide support for seniors who need help walking, such as walkers and railings.
3. Sense of purpose
Loss of independence can be isolating. Seniors who are isolated often develop feelings of hopelessness and depression, and the negative effects on their mental health can lower their quality of life.
Independence gives seniors a sense of purpose. They have opportunities for achievement, can contribute to the lives of their family, friends, and neighbors, and enjoy activities that they’ve always done.
The chance to set and reach goals has a big impact, even if they seem small. Independence allows older adults to take on the unique challenges of aging head on and overcome them with a sense of accomplishment.
Even if a senior is limited by mobility, they can still gain a sense of purpose through involvement in volunteer activities. For example, VANTAGE RSVP offers a Telecare program. Volunteers provide friendly, reassuring calls to homebound seniors to address social isolation. Volunteerism provides a sense of purpose and involvement in the community.
4. Aids with memory skills
The effects of independent living can contribute to improved health conditions in some older adults. Increased memory skills are just one to name, and an important factor in living a fulfilling life.
Memory loss gradually happens as we age, but independence and activity boost memory skills. Higher activity levels increase blood flow to the brain and using the mind often helps to preserve memory. Daily routines help promote both memory and independence.
5. Gives a sense of control
Sometimes, independence may be the only thing seniors feel that they control. The ability to live independently empowers seniors and reinforces that, though some factors, such as health or financial stability, may prevent them from carrying out some activities they once did, they still have a hold on many aspects of their life.
A sense of control also promotes a feeling of achievement and self-worth. And, feeling in control over their actions, choices and situation can have a positive effect on a person’s mental health.
6. Develops positive relationships
Good rapport can stem from a senior-caregiver relationship built on promoting independence. Caregivers can provide seniors with the tools and resources they need to maintain independence, such as helping them set up their home in a way that promotes fall prevention and helping them navigate digital devices to stay connected with family members.
At VANTAGE, we believe that everyone should have the opportunity to live independently with dignity, regardless of age, income, or disability. We offer wraparound programs and services that address the unique needs of seniors who want to remain in their own homes and active in their communities in Summit and surrounding counties in Ohio. Learn more about our programs on our website, or call 330-253-4597 to find out how we can help you or your loved one.
*The information in this article is intended solely to provide general information on matters of interest for the personal use of the reader, who accepts full responsibility for its use. This article should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional legal, medical, or other competent advisors.