Elderly independence may seem like “icing on the cake” as you age, but maintaining independence is an important element of health. From daily activity to community connection and eating well, there are many healthy habits that work together in promoting independence.
So, how do you stay independent in old age? Ahead, find out what leads to a loss of independence in the elderly and ways to stay healthy—and happy—long term.
What Leads to Loss of Independence in the Elderly?
In older people, aging can take its toll on the body. Along with physical challenges, the inability to maintain independence can affect quality of life.
A recent study found several common risk factors for loss of independence:
- Being house- or bed-bound
- Having few resources
- Living in an unsuitable environment or unsuitable living conditions
- Poor mental health
- Poor physical health
- Social isolation
Luckily, there are many ways to address these risk factors and, in turn, help preserve independence. Interventions that fortify cognitive and physical health in particular have been shown to support independence in daily living activities.
How Do You Stay Independent in Old Age?
Experts argue that quality of life is just as important as quantity of life and independence plays a huge role in helping older adults. Let’s explore six steps you can take to avoid losing independence as you age.
1. Stay Active
Enjoying moderate exercise is linked to maintaining muscle strength, which is crucial to preventing falls and accidents. Beyond that, remaining active is linked to aging well.
Keep in mind that many movements can be enjoyable and exercise doesn’t always have to be intense to be effective. Occupational or physical therapy can help you keep up with common methods of movement.
2. Prevent Falls
Preventing falls is a topic that consistently comes up in research about health in old age. As age increases, so does incidence of falls, so much so one recent study referred to falls as an epidemic.
If you continue living at home, implementing assistive devices (i.e. grab bars) and creating a safe living space can help prevent falls.
3. Keep Connected
Poor physical or mental health can exacerbate social isolation, a key component to being independent as you age. Independence does not mean being alone.
Instead, it means maintaining a healthy support system and community as you age.
4. Have Healthy Meals
Healthy diets are associated with not only physical and mental wellness, but also with healthy aging. A well-balanced diet is also a crucial part of cognitive function (brain health).
If you don’t already eat well, it’s never too late to choose healthy foods (start today)!
5. Find Purpose in Life
Having a clear sense of purpose, especially later in life, can help you find meaning each day. While it sounds somewhat vague, having a purpose can include:
- Being spiritual or practicing your faith
- Fulfilling your ambitions
- Pursuing an aspiration
- Keeping a positive attitude about your capabilities
- Reasons to stay positive
6. Accept Help
Additional help, beyond what one can offer as a family member, may be needed to sustain independence. Accepting help in the following forms can help seniors stay as independent as possible:
- Assisted living
- Home care
- Independent living communities
- Senior living centers
In Conclusion: Preventing Loss Of Independence
Advanced age doesn’t have to mean loss of independence. Maintaining health and wellness is a key way to help older adults live on their own. With the help of support systems and assistive care, elderly individuals can find fulfillment and improve quality of life.
Halaweh H, Dahlin-Ivanoff S, Svantesson U, Willén C. Perspectives of Older Adults on Aging Well: A Focus Group Study. J Aging Res. 2018;2018:9859252.
Motamed-Jahromi M, Kaveh MH. Effective Interventions on Improving Elderly’s Independence in Activity of Daily Living: A Systematic Review and Logic Model. Front Public Health. 2021;8:516151.
Toledano-González A, Labajos-Manzanares T, Romero-Ayuso D. Well-Being, Self-Efficacy and Independence in older adults: A Randomized Trial of Occupational Therapy. Arch Gerontol Geriatr. 2019;83:277-284.