Now that we’ve talked about what independence really means for most seniors, let’s look at a few important keys to helping seniors remain independent, for as long as possible.
- Exercise regularly—we already talked a lot about the value of this!
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet (avoid over-indulging). Proper nutrition gives your body what it needs to heal and the necessary energy. This is particularly important as we age—because our bodies tend to take longer to heal and we can suffer from lower energy levels.
- Check in with your doctor on a regular basis. It’s important if you are ailing from something to have it checked out—don’t dismiss it as “just part of aging,” because even if it is a result of aging, it doesn’t mean you have to just accept it and suffer. It’s also really important to manage your medications and make sure you are limiting side effects as well as getting the optimum results from them. Minor changes can make all the difference in how you feel day-to-day.
We all know that falling can be much more devastating for older people. Our bones can break more easily and healing can be harder. In fact, falls account for the largest percentage of injury and death among people 65 and older. So, it’s critical that we focus on preventing falls:
- Stay fit! Focus on building core strength and maintaining balance. Train in a senior fitness program and attend yoga classes.
- Be aware of your surroundings.
o Look where you step
o Watch for slippery surfaces
o Make your home easy to get around in (remove obstacles, avoid steps if they give you trouble, keep daily objects within easy reach)
o Use lights. Make sure your environment is well lit and have easy access to headlamps and flashlights.
o Have your eyes and ears checked regularly.
o Take a fall prevention workshop with your loved ones and potential caregivers.
Take Your Time
Rushing around can be stressful and cause accidents. We know, retirement isn’t any less busy than work life—and sometimes it is busier—but slowing down is the best way to reduce stress and you know that stress literally makes you sick. So, take your time. Plan ahead for activities and allow yourself plenty of cushion time to get from point A to point B. This gives you more control over your schedule and that helps to maintain your sense of independence.
Beware of Scams
Sadly, seniors commonly become the prey for scam artists and with ever-changing online technology it’s hard to know whom to trust. But if you become the victim of a scammer, your financial independence, your home—all the things you worked so hard for—could be taken from you. It’s important to be aware of the possibility of scams:
- Don’t be impulsive regarding your financial and personal decisions.
- Don’t respond to emails from people you don’t know.
- Follow this mantra: if it sounds too good to be true, it is too good to be true.
- Identify someone you can trust to help you navigate modern technology and suspicious financial offers.
Exercise Your Mind
Keeping your mind as fit as your body is a sure-fire way to help you maintain your independence:
- Learn new skills, particularly creative skills that require you to use your hands. These help with dexterity and to stimulate your mind. Painting, knitting, ceramics, gardening, wood working—you name it. If it’s new and exciting to you, go for it!
- Do crosswords and other word and number puzzles.
- Be social. Interacting with others helps to boost your mood and keeps you engaged in the world.
Talk About What is Important to You
As you age, talking to your loved ones about what you want out of your later years can help you to ensure you get it. If your loved ones know what is most important to you, they are likely to help find ways to make sure you get what you want. They will also see you as an active participant in your fate and respect that. If you want to remain in your own home for as long as possible, talk about options for independent living and in-home care. Again, planning ahead is critical—and in this case, it gives you all a road map to follow when faced with difficult decisions.