Why Is Independence an Important Part of Healthy Aging?
Over the years, we’ve talked a lot about the different ways we can help people stay independent longer. We have a number of articles and resources dedicated to educating the public on how best to prepare for aging in place and how to get support. But today, we want to dive into why independence is an important part of healthy aging.
5 Reasons Independence Promotes Healthy Aging
Independence Creates a Sense of Purpose and Accomplishment
As we age, we begin to lose agency over our abilities which can feel overwhelming and disheartening. Being stripped of our choices, routines, and goals against our wishes can lead to further deterioration. But, when we help our aging loved ones tackle the unique challenges of aging head on, and allow them to overcome those issues, we help to create a sense of accomplishment. Independence gives us the ability to determine our own path in life and can be found in simple choices like when we get up, what we eat, what we choose to do socially, and what our hobbies are. By helping our aging loved ones stay at home and finding supports that will come to them, we allow them to chart their own course and maintain autonomy over their lives, preventing further deterioration or bad feelings.
While independence helps to create a sense of accomplishment, on the other side of that token, it prevents harmful feelings of discouragement. It is easy to forget that older adults have spent their whole lives taking care of themselves and others. They’ve had years of managing households, budgets, family needs, and jobs. The idea that their aging is somehow limiting them or preventing them from continuing these responsibilities can feel incredibly discouraging. And while feeling discouraged is natural, staying discouraged is unnecessary and can lead to harmful effects like depression and anxiety. Finding ways to help seniors age in place and manage their regular routines encourages them to make their own choices throughout the day helping to reinforce their individual identities. This provides a sense of control and empowers seniors to seek other health-affirming decisions, like better movement and balanced nutrition.
Aging in Place with Support Encourages Positive Relationships
One of the hardest parts of aging is saying goodbye to friends and family. Outliving our loved ones is difficult and it can be hard to find new ways to socialize and feel included in a larger social structure. Living independently, with help, allows seniors to explore new relationships with their caregivers and the others they meet through structured support.
When people have individuals they can trust, they are more likely to share their burdens and needs, helping to create a better care plan moving forward. These trusted bonds are one of the best ways we can learn what the seniors in our lives actually need and how we can better support them as they age. Actively engaging aging adults in this way, by focusing on prevention and wellness, also serves to prevent or delay the onset of physical disabilities and cognitive decline. (CDC)
Supported Independence at Home Helps in Early Diagnosis of Brain Disease
According to the CDC, adults are often reluctant to discuss their concerns about worsening memory with their health care providers although such discussions can lead to earlier diagnosis and better care, planning, and support. They go on to explain that approximately half all people experiencing worsening memory have not talked about this concern with a health care provider. This lack of communication prevents early detection and diagnosis of dementia, which is critical to creating an effective treatment and management plan. Aging adults that feel comfortable and confident in their own home due to support are more likely to confide in their caregivers. In-home caregivers are also uniquely positioned to monitor dementia-like symptoms and help intervene when needed.
Aging in Place, When Done Correctly, Promotes Safety
While the effects of aging are hard to prevent, accidents are not. The key to healthy aging anywhere, is accident awareness and prevention. A benefit to aging in place is having a unique and comprehensive knowledge of your home. Being uprooted and placed into unfamiliar surroundings with new belongings can be disorienting and requires seniors to learn a new layout and way of living. Modifying their existing homes, however, ensures seniors can rely on their memory of the space and feel comfortable and safe in a place they are used to. In-home caregivers can observe seniors in their homes and help to create a plan to make the space safer allowing seniors to experience the benefits of independence while mitigating fears over falling or getting hurt.
It’s clear that independence is an important component in healthy aging but getting there might not feel straightforward. If you or a loved one needs additional support, but you are unsure of what to do next, reach out to our care team. Together, we’ll take a look at your needs and find the perfect caregiver for your lifestyle!