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Lifestyle & Travel

6 Ways to Embrace (and Maintain) Independence as You Age

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One of the most challenging parts of growing older may be the fear of losing your independence.

According to Pew Research Center, 61 percent of adults 65 and older would like to stay in their home as they age, having someone care for them there, if they are unable to care for themselves.

Aging in place often takes careful preparation. By planning ahead, taking advantage of technology, and knowing how – and when and whom – to ask for help, you may be able up your odds of remaining safely in your home for years, or decades, to come. Here are some ideas:

  1. Talk to your doctor and find support. Some health conditions are surprises, but others may come about more slowly and have a more predictable path. If you know you or your spouse has an illness, or if you know you’re at risk of getting a hereditary disease, talk with your healthcare provider about what kinds of things might lie ahead that could impact your independence. If you’re a caregiver, seek support in the community or in online groups from others who have had the same challenges. You could learn valuable information about how to ready yourself for the future.
  2. Prepare your home for aging in place before you need help. You can’t plan for everything. That’s why it can be helpful to prepare your home while you’re healthy, so that it’s one less thing to worry about should illness strike. Some common changes that people make so that aging in place is easier include replacing steps with ramps, adding grab bars in the bathrooms, installing non-slip floors, minimizing clutter and any potential tripping hazards, and improving lighting. Eldercare Locator, which is a public service of the Administration on Aging, may be able to help connect you to local service providers who can help make changes to your home.  
  3. Become comfortable using technology that could be helpful in a pinch. Ride shares, meal deliveries, public transportation trackers, grocery delivery, online doctor appointments, handyman services – they’re all literally at your fingertips, if you download the right apps. These kinds of services all offer a valuable connection to the outside world, so that you can get what you need, when you need it, without having to call in a favor to friends and family.
  4. Get to know your Area Agency on Aging. Find out what kinds of services your local agency offers. You may be surprised at the array of assistance that is available, such as meals, legal aid, energy assistance, financial assistance, classes, nutrition programs, veteran services, caregiving assistance, assistance with prescription medications, and more. Make a list of the benefits and services that you think may one day be helpful to you, so that you can reflect back on it and arrange help as needed.  
  5. Find ways to stay connected. Isolation can be one of the challenges of growing older. Get involved in different activities as a way to keep learning new things and meeting new people. Find out what classes are offered by your local library or at a nearby community college; drop in at your local senior center to see what’s happening there; visit a fitness center and consider trying a group exercise class as a way to stay active, both with your body and your mind. Down the line, if you’re unable to leave the house, the friends you’ve met at these places may be able to stop by to visit; or your Area Agency on Aging or other local non-profit may offer programs that connect you with visiting volunteers.
  6. Consider adding smart technologies to your home. Voice-assisted technologies and apps make it possible for home dwellers to turn the lights on and off, adjust the temperature, communicate with someone at the front door, set alarms to remind them to take medications, listen to the news of the day, and so much more. Some families even opt for different types of monitoring systems that allow them to check in on older family members and offer peace of mind.

Aging is a given. Smart aging takes planning. By preparing your home – and your mind – for the inevitable, you may be paving the way to a more independent future.  

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