Maintaining Our Independence

Ask older people what we most fear about aging, and the answer is likely to be losing our independence. What exactly does that mean? At the heart of independence is the ability to make decisions for ourselves. For most of our adult lives, we have been accustomed to deciding our own actions, setting our own goals, and being in charge of our own lives. Losing this sense of self-determination can lead to feelings of isolation, hopelessness, and depression.

The natural effects of aging often make independent living harder than it once was. Problems with mobility, finances, and unsuitable living conditions are just some of the reasons behind this change. A loss of independence and its effects can take many different forms—e.g., losing the ability to see, hear, drive, or leave our homes. In general, any change we cannot control can be considered a loss of independence.

In many instances, a series of symptoms accompany this loss, the most common being sleep difficulties, mood changes, and social isolation. Other signs are sudden changes in appetite, neglect of personal care, and depression. With age, many people begin to lose the ability to complete tasks that were once effortless.  We start to rely on others to help us with daily activities or take care of them entirely. For some, this prompts feelings of helplessness and loss of control.

While these feelings of self-deprecation may seem insurmountable, they don’t have to be. Instead, loss of independence can be viewed as an obstacle we can dismantle. Moving to a senior living community is one solution that helps many seniors who are struggling with loss. By providing such services as house cleaning, community meals, emergency care, and emotional support, these facilities make it easier to make friends and engage in stimulating activities, ranging from gardening to lifelong learning.

For those who do not opt for a senior living community but who could benefit from having someone to talk to, counseling and therapy are now available online. In our new world of virtual communication, online therapy is becoming increasingly popular and easy to find. Simply enter therapy for older adults in your search bar, and you will be surprised by the number of choices, many of which are covered by Medicare.

If DIY is more your style, the online options are endless. Search for meet-ups, senior centers, local libraries, community colleges and continuing education classes, health clubs, and fitness classes. The possibilities are as wide as your imagination. Register for social media that caters to older adults, and start communicating with new and old friends.

Losing one’s independence is a significant matter. When it happens, we are often caught off guard and may feel powerless to change our circumstances. There are, of course, some situations, such as a serious illness or disability, that may limit our options. But if we are relatively healthy and determined to take charge of our own lives, it is possible to regain our self-reliance and confidence.