What will it take for us Baby Boomers and other elders to maintain independence in our lives? And what does that even mean – independence?
Keeping in mind that no one is an island, we’re not looking to be isolated from the rest of society or becoming hermits. We just don’t want to be needlessly dependent on others for things we could take care of on our own.
We also want to have control over our lives, where we live, how we spend our money. We want autonomy over where we go, what we do for fun, who we interact with on a regular basis, what we eat or drink and all the other choices normal people make hundreds of times every day.
We basically want to take care of ourselves as much as possible. We may have issues that hinder some basic functions, but generally we want to do what we’re able to do.
Losing our independence is costly way beyond being dependent on others and having to pay for that extra help. We start feeling defeated, depressed and often angry at the world. We start doubting our worth and our ability to do anything. The more that happens, the less we actually are able to do.
We eventually just lose the will to live. But the good news is, we can turn that around.
There is plenty we can do NOW to ensure we remain independent well into our twilight years?
Nothing is more important than the condition of the body you inhabit. It is, in fact, our temple. It’s our vehicle for traversing this life. We need to take care of it.
If you’re not already exercising, start today. Even if it’s only walking for a few minutes or digging in the garden for an extra 10 minutes. Start slowly and build up. Healthy aging depends on it.
And don’t forget the brain. We need to keep that in shape, too. Work a crossword puzzle or Sudoku. Read a stimulating book or magazine article about something you didn’t already know. Play along with “Jeopardy” and “Wheel of Fortune” on television. Audit a course at a local college near you.
Eat right – we all know what that means even if we don’t always do it. Loads of fruits and vegetables, plenty of protein to help our muscles strengthen, fish a few times a week. Cut way back on processed foods, particularly those packed with sugar, and drink only in moderation.
Being fit and healthy is our best bet towards maintaining independence.
While you’re still healthy and fit, start checking out hidden dangers in your home and make corrections. Are there loose throw rugs that could slip out from under you? Are your hallways and doorways clear of clutter that could cause you to stumble and fall?
Do all stairs inside and outside have rails to hold onto?
Whether we like it or not, we’re likely to get weaker as we age. We don’t have to get frail necessarily but possibly less strong as we go. We could go ahead and make our bathrooms safer by installing grab bars to help pull ourselves out of the tub or off the toilet.
While we may never need a wheelchair, it would be a good idea to make our homes wheelchair-accessible as much as possible. For the friends and neighbors, of course.
Modern technology has made phenomenal progress in our lifetimes. Just by using our voices, we can take care of all kinds of chores in the home – turning electronics on and off, locking up, setting alarms or reminders, vacuuming and other cleaning activities, making important calls.
It’s hard to keep up with what’s possible. But it sure makes maintaining independence for us more realistic.
We can even have virtual visits with our health providers and get our vital signs monitored in the comfort of our own homes.
We can still remain mobile long after we no longer want to drive with services like Uber and Lyft.
We can have our groceries and other purchases that we order online delivered to our door. And with all the advances in cable television and independent networks, we can watch round-the clock movies from the classics to the newly released.
We can do almost anything we want virtually – if we need to do that.
To truly maintain our independence, we want to stay connected with our family and friends. That’s where we find fulfillment and that’s what keeps us healthy. Do what you can to have an active social life.
If we do need support sometimes in specific areas, we shouldn’t be afraid to ask for it. Most of the people in our lives are happy to help and want to be of service.
Be grateful for that and for all you do have.