Helping older adults age happily and healthy should be a major moral concern for any humane society, and especially ones with a large number of elderly people, which is the case with most advanced democratic countries today, from Japan to Canada. Maintaining as much independence as possible for as long as possible is part of healthy ageing for seniors, with important mental and physical health benefits. Here is how to help our elders stay independent and happy as they grow older.
Equip Them With Information
One of the most meaningful things you can do to help a senior friend or loved one maintain their independence as they age is to equip them with the ability to search for and make use of the wealth of information dedicated to eldercare and ageing-related issues available online, such as Family Assets. Large databases that break down senior living tips, help and guidance can make a world of difference.
Knowing how to move and structure our daily lives and routines as we age to maximize our enjoyment and independence is something people have to learn, not something we do instinctively. It is hard to overstate the importance of recognizing this.
Help Them Leverage Technology
The vast majority of people over the age of 50 (and even over the age of 70) now use smartphones. Smartphones are an important aspect of the social lives of most seniors in developed countries, and are increasingly relied upon to help them manage their daily affairs, including paying bills, managing retirement savings and financial services, and even to access and find out about fun and leisure opportunities.
There are so many applications on the market designed to help seniors live comfortable independent lives, that many older adults would undoubtedly get a lot out of, but which unfortunately remain unknown to many people. If you are a tech-savvy person (which if you are a younger person reading this, you likely are), help your senior family members and friends download applications like MedMinder, which assists them with medication schedule adherence. You can also recommend and help set up smart home technology like Amazon’s Alexa Echo, which can help seniors control lights, heating, security and other facets of their home using their voice.
Let Them Do For Themselves What They Can
Teach a man (or woman) to fish. As people get older, they naturally start to need help with certain tasks. Some of these have to do with failing strength and coordination. Others have to do with memory, vision and hearing. A common mistake many people make, and usually out of the goodness of their hearts, is doing too much for their senior loved ones when they could easily do these things themselves. Coddling breeds dependence, so pay special attention to when you feel like a senior in your life has stopped doing something for themselves not out of frustration or difficulty, but simply because you have taken it over. This could be paying bills, making appointments, going to the grocery store, or taking the dog for a walk.
A little encouragement goes a long way and, unfortunately, for many of us, old and young, we have far too little of it in our lives, or offer very little of it to those around us. If you want a senior loved one to stay independent, for their sake and yours, don’t forget positive reinforcement and motivation.
If you notice, for example, that an elderly person has stopped walking (which is an important form of exercise for older adults), encourage them to do more of it by telling them how great it was when they walked more often and how impressed you were by how active someone their age continues to be. Positive messaging has been shown to promote walking in older adults, and this is just one such instance of the outsized effects of encouragement.
Facilitate Aging in Place
Ageing in place is a health and wellness concept that refers to the ability of seniors to age in the communities and living spaces that they have spent most or much of their lives in. It means being able to continue living in the family home, or the apartment that was purchased following a downsize when the kids finally left the nest. It means being able to stay close to friends and family, recognizing that social networks are vital to senior mental and physical health, and the recreational opportunities that are available for seniors in many communities.
Facilitating ageing in place could be something as simple as helping a senior person make their home safer for an older adult (e.g., eliminating fall and injury hazards) or, where possible and when necessary, looking first to homecare options before pursuing assisted living or other long-term care.
Human beings are social animals, but an important part of the human condition, at any age, is a longing for independence, which essentially equates to freedom. Help your senior loved ones maintain their independence and freedom as they age by keeping the above considerations and recommendations in mind.