Age-related changes often result in a loss of independence, like the ability to maintain a routine, complete certain tasks, or take care of ourselves. However, maintaining independence and exercising autonomy as much as possible is a vital part of mental and physical wellbeing. Here are some reasons why independence is so important as we get older.
Reasons Why Independence Is Important for Seniors
1. Feel Like Themselves
A loss of independence can make a senior feel like they are losing part of their identity. Seniors have spent decades living independently and doing things for themselves and their families — working, teaching their children, running errands, managing money, etc. But when seniors aren’t able to do those things the way they used to or make decisions on their own, they can become depressed or angry. They don’t feel like themselves anymore and may even feel like less of an individual. Doing things on their own, even small activities, can help seniors feel more like themselves and maintain their sense of identity.
2. Contribute to Their Families & Society
Nobody wants to feel like a burden to their family members or even to society. But many seniors need help with routine activities, like driving, cleaning the house, doing laundry, and bathing. Even if they need help, seniors may be reluctant to ask for it or accept help when it’s offered because they don’t want to be a burden. But when a senior can do something on their own or even assist with an activity, they feel like they are contributing and giving back.
3. Maintain Sense of Purpose
Independence provides opportunities to achieve things — both big and small. It allows us to set goals and work hard to reach them. And we can enjoy a sense of accomplishment when we achieve a goal. As seniors exercise their independence, they can feel productive and maintain their sense of purpose and self-worth, which ultimately leads to better health. Individuals with a high sense of purpose live longer and experience health benefits.
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4. Boost Mental Health
Along the same vein, self-sufficiency can help improve overall mental health. Being independent can provide security and help seniors be more resilient to challenges and negative experiences. Plus, independence has been tied to better well-being and lower rates of depression in seniors. On the contrary, lack of autonomy is linked with higher stress and poor health. So, as seniors exercise their independence, they can be more content and ward off depression.
5. Provide a Sense of Control
The desire to feel in control and the ability to act on our environment to make things happen are natural parts of being human. In fact, it has helped the human race survive and even thrive. And as seniors age, the biological and psychological need to exercise control doesn’t just go away. Seniors, too, need to feel like they can still control certain areas of their lives. While it may not be possible for them to maintain the same level of control over their lives as they once could, seniors can be empowered to make their own small decisions — whether that’s the clothing they wear or what they eat for dinner.
6. Sharpen Cognitive Skills
When seniors have to make a decision on their own or perform a task independently, they exercise their brain. The mental stimulation that comes from doing meaningful tasks helps keep the brain healthy and maintain cognitive abilities. Some research suggests that these types of activities help fight off age-related brain changes. So, even as a senior loses physical ability, encourage them to participate in activities that stimulate and strengthen their mind.
RELATED CONTENT: How to Improve Senior Brain Health
7. Tone Muscles
You might not think that independence is related to physicality, but it can be! Doing things on your own can help keep your muscles toned and maintain your core balance. A lot of daily tasks require movement: washing dishes, folding laundry, walking to the bathroom, standing in the shower, etc. As seniors move on their own throughout the day, they can help keep their muscles healthy and work to prevent dangerous falls.
Challenges that Threaten Independence
While independence and self-sufficiency are important for seniors, there are many age-related changes and even circumstances that can threaten independence. Some of these challenges include the following:
- Cognitive decline, like dementia
- Chronic illness
- Difficulty with mobility
- Poor mental health
- Isolation or loneliness
- Financial hardship
- Apathy or loss of will to live
- Unsuitable living conditions
How Home Care Enables Senior Independence
Despite age-related changes, home care can help empower seniors to be as independent as possible at home. Care involves supporting a senior as they carry out their daily routine. Caregivers can assist as needed and do tasks that seniors may no longer be able to do themselves. Home care can also help ensure that a senior is safe at home, allowing them to enjoy their independence longer.
At Caring Senior Service, our professional caregivers are trained to enable a senior’s independence. The care we provide can help seniors remain at home instead of going to a nursing home or assisted living facility. To learn more about how we can help your aging loved one maintain their independence, reach out to your local Caring team.