Independence and Aging – Tools That Can Help

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:

Mobility Tools

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

Technological Tools

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?

5 Skills You Will Need in Retirement

Just because you make it to your second act does not mean you will necessarily enjoy smooth sailing ahead. Sure you have worked your butt off for years and years but the work is not over. Get ready to face plenty of challenges over the coming decades including numerous bumps in the road and a fair share of sudden detours not foreseen when you meticulously planned your future.

As with many facets of life, a happy retirement is best insured when certain skills exist and can be called upon as needed. You cannot prepare for every contingency but it never hurts to be armed and ready.

Here are 5 important skills/talents to add to your retirement arsenal.

Juggler

Not as found at the circus but rather the handy ability to manage multiple distractions at once. Although living the life of a retiree removes the need to balance the vicissitudes of the job there will be plenty new scenarios that leave your running around like a chicken with its head cut off. The fact is more often than not retirees find themselves busier in retirement than before. With only 24 hours in the day how do you fit in all those wonderful activities and interests you have postponed until now? I admit one of my biggest fears prior to retiring was running out of things to keep me busy and engaged. While I do occasionally have a slow day more often I can be found late in the afternoon wondering where the time went. Getting everything in – workouts, hikes, gardening, reading, playing ball with the dog (at least 5 times a day or he is perturbed), piano time, miscellaneous odd jobs, an afternoon nap, etc. – truly can feel like a three ring circus.

Discoverer of Creative Outlets

Without a job to monopolize your hours you become responsible for filling your daily dance card with activities and meaningful moments. Those most successful are able to step outside of previously restrictive comfort zones. The fact you have not tried something new in the past ten years need not taint your future. Now that you can why not give it a try? Experiment with a bit of this, try your hand at a little that. Don’t let preconceived notions and self-imposed limitations hold you back. Living the retirement you dream is all about doing what you want with your enviable free time.

fishermen at sunrise

Once retired, even if with your spouse, you will find you have time alone. This can be difficult if you thirst for social interaction but rather nice if you are fine with a little solitude. Knowing a bit about you – likes, dislikes, passions, never-in-this-life to be avoided situations, dreams, ambitions – can make the transition easier. Take time to feel your way around. You might discover you like those quiet moments alone with your own thoughts free from distraction or time constraints.

Bean Counter

Living on a budget is generally a reality of retirement. If you cannot increase the money coming in you need to manage what goes out. Successfully managing this ongoing balancing act helps keep you financially liquid through the coming decades. Beware big dollar investments in unnecessary items. Shop around for the best price. I rarely make a purchase online without comparing prices on Amazon.com. With competitive prices and free shipping Mr. Bezos is hard to beat. When paying for a service such as cable it helps to put in a call every six months or so to see if you can get a better deal. And don’t forget neighbors and friends who are happy to share their experiences and advice regarding cost saving strategies.

Best Deal Scrounger

One of the best parts of retirement is no longer waiting for weekends to have fun. Since you can now pursue your passions during the week a whole new world of deals is available. Hotel room rates are typically best Sunday through Thursdays – keep your eyes open for buy one get one night free or similar specials. Plane fares can be whittled down when you have the freedom to depart and arrive on the most economical dates offered. Early dinner fares are much more reasonable and since you control the calendar why not take advantage. It really pays off to shop around. Here is a helpful site I discovered specializing in various savings vehicles including a recent Retail Savings Guide for Baby Boomers.

Explorer of Passions

Not everyone retiring has a passion(s) to pursue. Or maybe it is more like they have not yet discovered what truly lights their fire. It could be they have just not had sufficient free time to think about what they really want to be doing. It’s difficult to find one’s passion when every waking moment is focused on climbing the corporate ladder or just keeping your head above water. But wouldn’t it be nice to have a passion to pursue when you retire? Now that you can wouldn’t you like to spend your time doing what really matters to you, what really lights your fire?

The secret is to find that inspiration. I don’t think there is any simple recipe to uncover what you are most passionate about. Each of us has to pursue our own path. For me it was a matter of trial and error. I tried out a few interesting avenues, quickly abandoning a bunch, giving up on others a little later. But in the end I identified a handful of activities/pursuits that bring meaning and happiness to my retirement. Armed with those I look forward to each day. And who says I am limited to what excites me today? I am free to try my hand at whatever may intrigue me as I continue my journey.

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