How Can I Stay Independent as Long as Possible?
This article was updated on: 09/16/2018
According to a report by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Office of Policy Development and Research, the overwhelming majority of seniors want to live independently in their homes as they age and 93% Medicare enrollees over age 65 are aging at home. However, by age 85, 22% of seniors are no longer able to live independently at home and require care and support services, either in a nursing home or assisted living facility. Home modifications may help seniors continue to live independently. Here’s a look at some things you can do to achieve independent living for seniors.
What does “independent living” mean?
Living independently for elders means being able to live in your own space, whether that’s a private home, an apartment or cottage in an independent living community, or a private residence attached to a loved one’s home. Seniors who live independently may still get assistance with things like housework, yard care, or even meals, but they are able to manage activities of daily life on their own. In contrast, assisted living benefits seniors who need daily assistance and support to stay safe and healthy.
What things can I do at home to maintain independent living for seniors?
The HUD report recommends some modifications in the home that encourage independent living:
- Install brighter lighting throughout the home.
- Add handrails to both sides of steps both inside and outside the home.
- Install grab-bars in the bathroom.
Some seniors benefit from more complex renovations, or even moving to a new home, to include independent living features such as:
- Zero-step entryways or entryways with a ramp
- First-floor bedroom and bathroom
- Wider doorways, lower countertops and cabinets, and other accommodations for seniors who use a wheelchair
You may also want to consider 55+ residential communities, which offer many benefits for seniors, such as maintenance-free homes, single story, accessible floor plans, well-lit walkways, organized community activities, and in some cases, even optional support services such as housekeeping, meal preparation, and errand-running.
Are there technology aids for seniors to live independently?
There is a wide range of new aging in place technology aids that can encourage living independently for elders. Some examples to consider include:
- Sensor systems that automatically alert loved ones if you don’t leave your bedroom in the morning by a certain time, don’t take daily medications, or even if you haven’t opened the fridge for a certain number of hours.
- Emergency pendants and fall-detection alarms that trigger emergency assistance with the push of a button.
- Medication reminders and dispensers that use an alert such as a flashing light or audible alarm to remind you to take your medications, and even dispense them if you have dexterity issues.
- Video monitoring that allows you to have face-to-face interaction with loved ones and lets them keep an eye on you remotely when they can’t be with you.
What community services are available to help with independent living for seniors?
Even if you don’t need a caregiver to continue independent living, you may need help with other tasks and chores. The Meals on Wheels program operates in most communities and there is no income requirement to sign up for meal delivery. Your local Agency on Aging is a resource to explore community services in your area. If you no longer drive, for example, they may be able to connect you with free or low-cost transportation assistance. If you live in a city with good public transportation, you may be able to find “mobility ambassadors” who can show you how to use your city’s bus and train system. Many grocery stores now offer home delivery of your online orders.
The Department of Health and Human Services has an Eldercare locator tool to connect you with local resources to assist with transportation, food and nutrition, home repair and maintenance, and even housekeeping and other in-home services that promote living independently for elders.
Need more information about independent living for seniors?
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