By 2030, the world will be home to more than 1.4 billion people aged 60 and older, and increase of 500 million from 2015. Therefore, learning to live independently in old age becomes an increasingly important matter.
People are living longer than ever, and that means the need for extra care will almost inevitably affect most of us in some way. Not only will some of us need to find or receive care for ourselves, a friend or a family member, but many of us will also take on the responsibility of being an informal care provider. One of the most vital parts of finding care for someone is remembering the importance of them living independently for as long as they are able to. Your loved one has lived a long and self-reliant life, and by maintaining this for as long as possible, it will allow them to continue to enjoy their independence. If it is still suitable and safe for them to live and carry out activities independently, you should encourage this type of living and a caregiver should support in times or situations where living independently is more difficult, such as visiting the shops to purchase food.
Here are 6 ways that you can help your loved one age independently:
1) Small renovations to be more independent
If your loved one lives alone or with a partner or family member, make some improvements to their home to ensure a safe home environment.
Some additions to the home, such as a stair lift or handles in the bath, might be considered, as they can prevent what can be very common and dangerous accidents for elderly people. In order to live independently, your loved one is likely to want to continue cooking and cleaning as they have always done, so be sure that the home is as risk-free as possible. Ask yourself this: are cupboards easy to reach? Are there any loose sockets or wires that an elderly person might not notice?
2) Help prevent loneliness
Feelings of isolation and a lack of companionship often leads to elderly people losing their independence earlier than is necessary.
Loneliness can have detrimental effects on senior citizens; research by psychologist John Cacioppo found that feelings of loneliness can increase an elderly person’s chances of premature death by 14 per cent, and according to a recent trial involving over 800 people with dementia, the ‘Improving Wellbeing and Health for People with Dementia’ (WHELD) programme found that having an hour of social interaction every week could make a significant difference to quality of life for people with dementia who are living in care homes. In order to keep their independence for as long as possible, your loved one’s mental and physical health should be a top priority. In some circumstances a residential care home can provide more social activities and opportunities to interact with other people more than living independently can, so be sure to consider and explore all the options available. Age UK have launched a service to support older people who may be feeling lonely, to prevent any long-term negative effects on health and wellbeing.
3) Physical health
As they get older, it becomes even more important for your loved one to keep active in order to stay healthy and maintain their independence.
Being physically inactive can lead to difficulty with the activities your loved one has always enjoyed doing independently, such as playing with grandchildren or walking to the corner shop, and it can reduce energy levels significantly. The NHS website provides advice to help elderly people remain active as they get older, stating that ‘physical activity is anything that gets your body moving. It can include anything from walking and gardening to recreational sport’. Support your loved one in keeping fit by accompanying them on a short walk around the block or help them find a local activity group for elderly people to join.
4) Look for care that advocates independence
There is a wide variety of care services and providers available to care for your loved one, and some have the capacity to help the people they care for maintain their independence.
Care services, such as Lifeco.com, can support you in finding care for your loved one that is directly tailored to their needs; if your top priority is that your loved one is able to maintain their independence, care services can put you in touch with care providers and carers that are able to offer exactly this. In some cases you or your family member may simply need a carer to visit them one or two times a day to help with getting out of bed or cooking dinner; and in some cases they may no longer be able to live alone in their own home but will still want to continue dressing themselves or socialising independently. Depending on your loved one’s level of independence, there is a care provider that can meet your needs.
5) Learn the technology basics
The ageing population aren’t always digitally aware. However, if used for the right purposes, technology can support elderly people in maintaining their independence.
Technology such as social media and video calls can help your loved one keep in touch with friends and family, which can prevent feelings of loneliness and isolation. Even more so than that, technology can also be a great way to ensure your loved one is safe and secure at home. Telecare systems provide elderly people with remote care, therefore allowing them to remain living at home whilst receiving the care they need. The system is made up of a group of sensors fitted around the home, and if they recognise an unusual event or activity, they’ll contact you or a designated carer.
Because of the wide variety of resources, care services and technology available to our senior community, we can feel confident that our loved ones will be able to maintain their independence for as long as they’re able to. As your elderly family member, friend or loved one ages, it’s natural to feel concerned that they may be at risk of losing their independence, but with the right steps and precautions, this doesn’t have to be the case.
By Katie Gartland, Spokesperson at Lifeco.com