July Fourth is a day for celebrating independence – our independence from the British empire.Independence always makes me think about our population and their focus on independence or maintaining their independence. We often hear our guests comment, “I want to be able to remain independent.” What does that mean and why is it so important to older adults?
GEARED TO REVERE
From a very early age, we have been raised to respect and strive for a level of independence. As babies, we pass milestones that increase our level of independence:from bottle to food; from being held to walking; from diapers to using the toilet; etc. We move from dependency on our parents to pulling away in middle and high school and taking flight during college or career. Additionally, many of our seniors have experienced a culture in which self-reliance was admired. We have been groomed to respect a level of independence as we have matured.
Independence is a goal from the time we are born until we actually achieve it. Yet, independence seems to have an even greater importance to older adults. Why is that?
THE VALUE OF INDEPENDENCE
Independence is central to the desires of many older adults because it affects multiple aspects of their lives. Often, older adults experience things out of their control – death of a loved one; cessation of employment; change of income, etc. The ability to maintain independence is something over which they strive to remain in control. In fact, many seniors equate independence with self-worth or well-being. You may hear:“I still drive at night.” “I play at least 9 holes of golf every week.” “I work out at least 30 minutes every day.” “I still do all my yard work.” Each of these statements could be their way of overtly stating their functional independence. In fact, it can be a badge of honor to be the one who still feels comfortable to drive after dark.
Additionally, independence may affect their choices in life. In fact, it may determine whether or not they are able (or encouraged) to remain at home. This factor makes independence a crucial part of their lives.
During the month of July, our nation’s month of independence, let’s explore independence among older adults: what types of independence are possible, and how might we contribute toward facilitating the independence that older adults desire?
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