Senior Living: How older adults can AIM for independence

By Lisa Keller

Contributing writer

For many people, February is all about expressing one’s love for others. But it is also National Senior Independence Month – a time for older adults to focus on the self, putting into priority their own individual needs for health and happiness.

Unfortunately, a significant portion of Americans have concerns about their independence. A recent report published by AARP suggests two in 10 American seniors over the age of 70 find difficulty in completing day-to-day activities without assistance or additional resources.

However, blowing out more birthday candles doesn’t have to mean one should count fewer freedoms. This month, seniors and their families are encouraged to explore new ways to maintain active lifestyles and rediscover a meaningful relationship with oneself.

Overcome Obstacles to Freedom

Each new year brings new hurdles to hop for many adults who seek to continue their marathon of independent living. New realities impose limits, keeping a carefree lifestyle at too great a distance. Physical health concerns, such as loss of mobility due to surgery, vision loss or medical condition, can be debilitating. Anxiety and depression, in addition to other mental health afflictions, can leave seniors feeling a lowered sense of purpose. And a lack of resources, such as transportation, can reduce one’s confidence, leaving active older adults feeling isolated.

Fortunately, there are ways seniors can restore self-sufficiency, yet wishing for it alone won’t bring you any closer to independence. Instead, AIM for a more enriching and independent lifestyle — whether you’re living at home or in a senior care setting — by rating yourself on the following priorities:

• Activity – The ability to perform day-to-day activities, including self-care, exercise and repetitive tasks. (Score yourself from 0-5)

• Involvement – One’s impact and positive contribution to family, peers and the community-at-large. (Score yourself from 0-5)

• Mobility – The ability to physically be wherever needed, by foot or vehicle. (Score yourself from 0-5)

If you scored 11-15, this means, you are on your way to independence! Keep doing what you do, and revisit these tips every few months, or when a health concern or other aging obstacle emerges. Also, don’t forget to share your tips with other seniors who may be struggling to find independence on their own.

If you scored 6-10, seek community resources in the areas where you have scored the lowest. Also, senior health advisors and a trusted primary care provider can offer tips on how you can improve your independence. Also talk to peers and family members who are living independently and try picking up their good habits for success.

If you scored 0-5, consider expert counsel from a team of professional caregivers, senior living experts and your primary care provider who can create a plan to get you on track to living independently. Many of these people can visit your home, personal care or senior living community, or other living environment and create an assessment plan that meets your unique needs.

Trusted Tips for Independent Living

Whether you’re a senior athlete or a chair-rocking grandparent, keeping these rules of thumb can help create a mindset for meaningful living for years to come.

• Don’t Compare – Though lowered independence doesn’t have to be a part of aging, independence means many different things for everybody. Outside of the basics of independent living, find confidence in the abilities that you have mastered and set personal goals that are attainable for you and you alone.

• Trust the Experts (and your loved ones) – If more than once friend or family member suggests you’re in need of assistance, take their words to heart. While we may feel as though we can accomplish anything, our loved ones can be invaluable in cross-checking our abilities. After all, they’ve watched you change over the years. So don’t just hear their concerns – listen and listen closely.

• Be Consistent and Committed – Independence can be like an engine; Keep fueling it and it won’t stop. Fuel your freedom with positive habits and activities: Exercise, community involvement and volunteerism are among the many ways you can put more miles in your years.