Want to Age Independently? Health and Safety Are the Answer
Do you worry about losing your independence as you get older? Aging comes with a lot of changes, some of which affect your ability to live, work, and recreate safely. However, becoming a homebody or moving into a care facility aren’t your only options when faculties begin to fade. If you’re a senior who values independence, this advice will help you age on your own terms.
Does fear of falling stop you from going out and doing the things you love? If so, you could be doing more harm than good. Seniors who avoid physical activity because they’re afraid of falling lose mobility faster than adults who remain active. The result: That fear of falling makes you more likely to suffer a fall, not less.
If you’re worried about falling, a smarter approach is working on strength and stability. Older adults should train for lower body strength, balance, and range of motion. This decreases your fall risk, and in the event that you do trip, you’ll have an easier time regaining your balance.
Seniors who want to become physically active have a lot of resources at their disposal, such as:
- SilverSneakers and other fitness classes.
- Senior centers and community centers.
- Personal training.
- Physical therapy.
Adults with health conditions or a history of sedentary behavior should consult with a doctor before starting an exercise program.
No matter how fit you are, falling still presents a risk. In addition to exercising for fall prevention, you should adapt your home to reduce the likelihood of falls. As the place where you spend most of your time, your home is where you’re most likely to fall.
These changes reduce the risk of an accident at home:
- Removing clutter and arranging furniture to create clear walkways.
- Removing or securing area rugs and mats.
- Securely mounting grab bars in bathrooms and handrails along stairs.
- Adding non-skid strips to shower and tub floors and stairs.
- Storing frequently-used and heavy items at waist height.
- Increasing lighting at entrances, in stairwells, and other dark areas.
To learn more about fall prevention, view the National Institute on Aging’s fall-proofing guide.
For many of us, driving represents independence. However, at a certain point, driving becomes much riskier. So, if you’re having trouble seeing behind the wheel or your reflexes have slowed, it’s time to give up your driver’s license. Continuing to drive puts yourself and others in danger. If you do get in an accident, the impact on your health and independence will be much greater than relinquishing driving privileges.
Giving up your car shouldn’t mean staying home all the time. These resources let you get around without a car:
- Public transportation. If you don’t live near public transit lines, consider moving closer to transportation before losing the ability to drive.
- Taxis and ridesharing services.
- Community and volunteer driving programs.
Eating well is no less important when you’re older. In fact, because of changes to the way your body absorbs nutrients, it may be more important! Unfortunately, working in the kitchen can become uncomfortable as you get older.
Try these adaptations to relieve discomfort caused by common kitchen tasks:
- Placing anti-fatigue mats in front of stoves, counters, and other workspaces.
- Increasing task lighting in the kitchen.
- Purchasing ergonomic tools and utensils.
- Adding adaptive organizers to cabinets to improve access to contents.
- Installing accessible kitchen appliances.
Yale Appliance has more information on kitchen modifications for aging in place.
Getting older comes with a lot of changes, but losing your freedom doesn’t have to be one of them. As you think ahead to your senior years, consider how you can adapt your home and lifestyle to support healthier aging. It’s hard to admit your health isn’t what it used to be, but adapting is the best way to preserve your independence for the future.