What if when you wake up tomorrow morning and suddenly, you cannot carry your laundry down the stairs or step safely into the shower? You know you have a long list of stuff you want to do this week, but for some reason, you can only remember half of it. Out of nowhere, you’re having a very hard time walking outside to get your mail. This would certainly be a daunting experience for any normal, healthy person. But for many elderly people, these circumstances are realities and are just a few of the many daily tasks that are difficult to do.
Although some activities of daily living might become burdensome or unsafe for a senior, it does not necessarily mean that it’s time to start researching alternative living facilities. By taking proper precautions and providing the best support, we can help our aging loved ones remain independent, aging in place where they feel comfortable and familiar--at home.
A recent AARP study found that 85% of all Americans over the age of 65 state they would like to stay at home, aging independently. Being able to age at home though is just one of the factors that keep seniors independent. As we age, we do not lose our interests or our feelings of self-worth. We want to stay connected to our friends and family, enjoy our hobbies and passions, maintain normal physical activity and stay healthy. It is essential to have something to look forward to and a reason to get out of bed in the morning. By providing the means for seniors to keep their sense of self and independence intact, we are helping them to live longer and happier lives.
How can I help facilitate aging independently?
Some ways that you can help foster senior independence are:
1) Perform a home safety check
Perform a home safety check to ensure that the major causes of falls and fires in the home are eliminated.
2) Go on a weekend outing
Take your elderly family member to a museum, play, concert or sporting event. If that’s too much for them, watch one on TV with them.
3) Visit every day
Visit daily, or have others make a trip to see your loved one. A neighbor, church member, grandchild, or family friend can quickly perk up their day.
4) Go grocery shopping together
Have your loved one write out a list and pick out the items. You can bag and unload them.
5) Do a technology lesson
Teach your loved one new technology such as quiz apps on the iPad to keep them entertained and stimulated. Apps like Lumosity and Vismory, Jeopardy are popular choices among the senior demographic and will help to sharpen memory and increase attention skills.
These are just a few ideas that you can use facilitate aging independently for your loved one.
Happiness and meaning are linked to one another and although “meaning” is different for everyone, wanting a sense of purpose is universal. Try to do things with your elderly family member rather than for them. Things might be tougher to do as we age, but we still want to participate in the tasks we’re used to performing. It is discouraging to have someone barge in and take over something that we are used to doing ourselves, our way. We cannot stop the process of aging but we can make it more pleasant for our loved ones by helping them to maintain as much dignity and independence as possible.