Maintaining Independence as You Age
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Almost everyone values independence, but as people age, the concept of independence becomes a central theme in a person’s life. At Home Care Assistance, we believe that older adult’s voices are the ones that have the most value. This year we held a nationwide survey asking adults ages 65+ how they best maintain their independence, and over 2100 older adults responded.

Consistent themes emerged from our survey, and they included these definitions of independence:

  • Doing everything by myself and still being able to help my friends when needed. Having a good frame of mind each day, which is a gift as we age, and seeing the joy in life.
  • The ability to handle my own finances, doing tasks of daily living, mental acuity, enabling communication with others, walking (assisted or unassisted) enough to get around.
  • Completing my Activities of Daily Living, continuing to work full time, making my own decisions and handling my own finances.

We thought you would be interested in hearing from a couple of the respondent follow-up interviews we conducted. Bonita and Pat were two of the winners of iPads for participating in our survey. Independence for seniors doesn’t necessarily mean that they have no needs. Support allows seniors to be their best selves, improve their physical and emotional functioning and pursue the connections and activities that are important to them. In our campaign, the giveaway winners gave us a bird’s eye view of what independence means to them and how technology can help older adults.

Technology Helps Seniors Stay Mentally Active and Connected

Bonita lives in assisted living in Bellevue, Washington, and she was a winner of a new Ipad. Assisted living doesn’t mean that someone is not independent — they are receiving support and help from staff and private caregivers. But, adjusting to support and learning new things, staying connected, and having a positive attitude helps seniors remain independent in body, mind, and spirit.

Bonita and Kevin Stallo, Home Care Liaison

Here is some of what Bonita had to say:

“I am most excited about using my Ipad for communication and surprising people that I can do it! Also, there are memory games. I don't sit down and pick up the telephone to talk for an hour but I will get quick messages out, and I find my friends do the same thing.”

“I am excited about watching my daughter's chin drop if she ever got a message from me and especially surprising your grandchildren. I think it's going to be a wonderful addition to my life.”

Takeaways From Our Conversation with Bonita:

  • Your loved ones are willing to learn technology if given the tools and the opportunity
  • Older adults understand that technology is what their children and grandchildren prefer to use to communicate
  • Technology allows older adults to stay connected to friends as well

Independence, Happiness, and Attitude

Pat lives in a retirement community in North Carolina is another winner of an Ipad. Pat is the perfect person to receive this gift because she already has a step up on technology and what it takes to be positive during the transition to senior living. Here are some excerpts from our interview with Pat:

Bonita and Beth Adams, Home Care Liaison

Question: iPads are great for staying connected to family and friends. Who are you most excited about connecting with?

Pat: Well, my daughter, my son, my grandchildren. Then all the friends that I left in Winston-Salem that I still keep in touch with, and most of them have iPads. I am going to try and put my calendar on it. I don't know what I'd do without being able to email and text, but I don't do this TikTok and Instagram.

Question: How do you stay hopeful? In what ways do you try to stay hopeful with all of that?

Pat: Oh, you have to have faith, for one thing. You need to surround yourself with cheerful people, and you need to laugh like a loon. You can even use the iPad to show food too. Pictures, that's the newest thing, right? To show this is what I'm eating. This is my favorite meal.

Question: Is there anything else you would like to share just about ways and advice, perhaps, that you would give for people looking to remain independent?

Pat: Make your decisions while you're able to, mentally and physically. If you consider where your children live, where you want to be, you need to be close to them. You need to find a place and go ahead and get the move behind you and get settled. It will be a big gift to your children, I think I've heard that the people here that are unhappy about being here for the most part are the people whose children put them here. The children found the place. The children made the decision. The children moved them in, and they don't like it. But the people that are happy here, they came, they looked, they saw, they considered, they made the decision, they were involved. Another thing, if you do move like that, you need to get involved as quickly as possible. Oh, that's me.

Takeaways From Our Conversation with Pat

  • Technology allows seniors to stay connected through email, texting, and social media platforms.
  • Technology also encourages seniors to pursue and investigate areas of interest to them.
  • Make decisions when you still can so that you feel empowered to choose what is best for you.
  • Attitude is everything when making a move to senior living. Stay positive, get involved, and continue to be active.

Lessons Learned From Independent Seniors

If you are a family member of a loved one at home or in senior living, there are ways you can enhance and support their independence as they age. A summary of what we have learned from Bonita, Pat, and the hundreds of clients we have had the privilege of helping:

  • Start early by talking with your loved one about choices for support in the future
  • In-home caregivers help your loved one stay safe and assist them with learning technology such as smartphones, iPads, email, and texting.
  • Older adults are open to learning the technology that will keep them connected to family and friends. Don’t be afraid to introduce new devices to your loved ones and then offer the support to help them learn.
  • When older adults make a conscious decision to stay involved, they are happier and more well-adjusted.

About the Author(s)

Amanda Lambert is the owner and president of Lambert Care Management, LLC which provides care management for older and disabled adults. She is the co-author of Choose Your Place: Rethinking Home as You Age (November 2020) and of Aging with Care: Your Guide to Hiring and Managing Caregivers at Home (Rowman and Littlefield, 2018). She has worked for over 20 years in the senior-related industry including mental health, marketing and guardianship. She has a passion for topics related to health, wellness and resilience as we age.

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