Written by Jessica Hegg
Independence comes in a lot of shapes and sizes for seniors. For one 65-year-old couple living on their own in the house in which they raised their family, independence might mean getting to stay in that house til their final days. For a 76-year-old man in an assisted living facility, independence might mean being able to care for himself, feed himself, and get out for walks and visits without assistance. No matter what independence in your Golden Years looks like to you, these tips and tools can help:
Using assistive devices to aid your mobility doesn’t have to be a death sentence for your independence. On the contrary, mobility aids and assistive devices can empower your self-reliance, making it easier to get around your own home and even help prevent falls.
At the first sign of leg or foot weakness, pain, balance problems, exhaustion, or experiencing multiple falls, talk with your doctor about your mobility plan and whether an aid might help you. From canes to walkers, knee scooters, and wheelchairs, retaining your mobility and independence may be as simple as finding the right tool to support your movements and balance.
With one third of adults over 65 experiencing a fall at some point, fall prevention is directly linked to remaining mobile and independent. Falls can lead to hip fractures, strains, muscle tears, and even hospitalization. ‘Fall proof’ your living environment by:
- Removing clutter and trip hazards (like cords and curled up rug corners) from walking pathways
- Getting your vision checked for any impairments that might affect your walking
- Investing in proper fitting shoes that support and stabilize your movements
- Installing grab bars, rails and guide lighting around staircases, ramps, and bathrooms
- Exercising regularly to strengthen bones, muscles, balance, and coordination
Independence in retirement is taking on new meaning in the digital age. Technological devices, mobile applications, and online services are making living on your own while still staying connected easier than ever.
The rise in use of virtual assistants is a trend making its way into the homes of many Baby Boomers. While Siri on your iPhone can help you look something up on the web or place a call, free standing virtual assistants like Amazon Echo with Alexa or Google Home can go even further. With a simple command, they can update your grocery list, play music on your home sound system, turn on the TV, set alarms, update you on the day’s news, and more.
Online video chat services like Skype and Google Hangout encourage older adults to stay connected to family and friends by live video chatting with them on a computer, even if they live far away. In addition, social platforms like facebook and instagram help you engage with others, check out local events, view photos of family and friends, and more.
Mobile applications you can download and use on your smartphone or tablet, like Instacart or Peapod, let you order groceries online and have them delivered to you door. And apps like TaskRabbit help you find local help to assist with errands, house cleaning, pet sitting, and more household jobs. Looking to add some cash to the old retirement account? Use sites like CraigsList, eBay, or Facebook Marketplace to sell high-valued, gently-used items you no longer want or need.
Everyday Use Tools
In addition to preventing falls and exercising regularly, avoiding annoying health ailments that can affect your ability to complete tasks on your own, like arthritis pain, back inflammation, or muscle strains, can be simplified with even the most basic everyday tools.
Reacher grabber tools are inexpensive, nifty devices that make reaching objects off the ground or up on high shelves easier than ever before. The lightweight design and clever grip handle of a reacher tool helps you extend your reach without exerting too much effort, while rubber and magnetic jaws on the end help you grip and pick up hard to reach items.
Handle grippers make eating, writing, and even brushing your teeth easier, especially if you are one of the 20% of adults in the U.S. with arthritis. Handle grippers slide or wrap around thin instruments or tools to provide a wider, nonslip area with which to grip them securely.
High-powered blenders aren’t just for infomercials anymore. With a strong emphasis on eating a healthy diet infused with lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and whole grains, senior health is showing more and more benefit from whole foods nutrition. And simply put, high-powered blenders can ease the time-consuming process of preparing food, and take the pain out of having to handle multiple pots, pans, lids, and utensils.
Toss an avocado, banana, greek yogurt, fresh spinach, and frozen berries into a high-powered blender for a super food smoothie rich with vitamins, protein, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids. Or blend roasted tomatoes and garlic, cream, and basil on a soup setting for a quick, warm meal that might have otherwise taken 20 minutes to make.
When it comes to independent living for older adults, a handful of factors come into play including health, mobility, finances, and living environment. For each and every one, there are tools, both physical and virtual, that can simplify daily living and boost your independence. What’s your go-to independent living tool?