If you're like most people, you probably hope to enjoy your independence as you age and enter retirement. Around 65% of Americans said they considered aging in place and remaining independent to be important goals in the 2020 Aging in Place in America report from Fresenius Medical Care.
Most retirees want to remain in their homes as they age and finally gain the time to pursue new interests and hobbies as part of their retirement lifestyle. To that end, here are five steps you can take now to maintain senior independence and enjoy a fulfilling retirement.
Plan Ahead for Aging in Place
Hopefully, you'll be able to get around just fine when you're 80 years old, but planning now for potential mobility challenges you might face at home later on can help you remain independent as you age. For example, installing grab bars in the shower and traction in the tub may help to prevent a fall that could sideline you for months. Downsizing from a two-story house to a ranch-style home would mean that you wouldn't need to climb stairs if mobility became an issue. Modifying your home with better lighting and wider doorways can also enable greater mobility and help prevent falls and injuries.
Remain Physically Active
Exercise and physical activity are crucial to healthy aging. Taking regular, brisk walks can help you maintain a healthy weight and prevent or manage health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure, according to the Mayo Clinic. Exercise also strengthens your bones and muscles, enabling better mobility as you age. If you want to supplement your retirement income with a part-time job, better health and mobility could mean more options for earning money to support the senior lifestyle you desire.
Maintain Social Connections
People who engage in meaningful activities with others have a greater chance of maintaining senior independence. That's because seniors with meaningful social connections may live longer, enjoy boosted mood and thrive with a sense of purpose, according to the National Institute on Aging (NIA). Maintaining social connections could also reduce your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, cognitive decline and Alzheimer's. Staying socially connected can also support a strong immune system, helping you stave off debilitating illness that could interfere with your independence.
Make the Most of Community Resources
Many communities offer numerous resources to help seniors maintain an independent lifestyle. Agencies that assist seniors may have volunteers available to perform light housekeeping, mow the grass, shop for groceries or run errands. Community offices or agencies may provide shuttle services, prepared meals or respite care so caregivers can have breaks. To find local resources for help with senior independence, you could look through the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging or perform an online search for local senior organizations.
Know Your Independence Limits
Pushing the boundaries of independence to the point of causing safety risks can sabotage your senior independence goals. For example, don't insist on driving when vision or other physical impairments pose a safety hazard that may cause injuries or hospitalization. Instead, take public transportation or use a ridesharing service such as Uber or Lyft. Neglecting a need for house cleaners or other services necessary to maintain your home could also cause you to lose some independence, as you may not be able to perform those duties on your own, and not having them done could hinder you in a number of ways. Adjusting your level of independence slightly as you age and allowing others to provide assistance when you need it can help you remain independent and free up more time to enjoy your life in retirement.
What You Can Do Now
There are steps you can take now to maintain your senior independence and support a healthy senior lifestyle as you age. For instance, you could establish a simple exercise routine that includes daily walks or even join an outdoor walking group to nurture social connections. Online exercise classes can allow you to develop stronger muscles and better balance in the comfort of your own home. It can also be helpful to determine what home modifications you could gradually make to ease your mobility around the house. By planning out a safe home environment and an active senior lifestyle now, you can increase your chances of enjoying greater senior independence over time.