The most important problem senior citizens face today is loss of independence. All other issues fall under this umbrella of inconvenience and distress. Whether older persons have financial hardships, failing health or isolation concerns, the resulting problems inevitably infringe on their ability to remain independent.
The senior citizen population covers a wide age span. Whether they are at the beginning, middle or advanced end of the spectrum, loss of independence affects them in different ways and at different levels. It is a very real handicap and instills fear and robs the peace of mind of the majority of the aged populace.
All individuals value independence and take pride in doing for themselves. Senior citizens are no different. If anything, they are more determined to retain their independence as they sense it slipping away in small increments.
It is safe to say that most senior citizens are impacted by declining self sufficiency in some way.
Here are several of the more common issues:
Unfortunately, our bodies do not always serve us well up to the end of our lives. Many seniors suffer from physical and mental ailments. Many conditions and illnesses compromise mobility and leave seniors unable to live independently and care for themselves. Many seniors have difficulty admitting their limitations and accepting help. It is a blow to the self esteem to have to rely on others and many older persons will experience depression when their independence disappears.
The more severe the shortage of money, the more likely the threat to independence. Fortunate are the seniors who have additional resources and do not have to rely exclusively on Social Security and Medicare to see them through their old age. Few are able to pay for services like housecleaning, yard upkeep, grocery shopping and trips to the doctor. Pride prevents many seniors from asking for help and the result can be malnutrition and living in a state of neglect.
In today’s society many families are scattered far and wide and the unity and proximity that would benefit aging relatives is not always available. Many older citizens receive rare visits from their extended family and their declining abilities often go unnoticed. They suffer loneliness and boredom to such a degree that it will impact all areas of their health and well being. Even when family is close by it takes vigilance and awareness to discern the failing abilities of an older relative. Seniors will guard their privacy and display huge reluctance to relinquish their highly valued independence.
Fear can be paralyzing as the senior sees his self sufficiency crumbling away in gradual increments. Visual impairment leads to loss of driver’s license. Physical decline results in decrease in productivity. Senility makes living alone an impossibility. Medical problems interfere with mobility. Memory challenges and hearing loss create feelings of isolation and confusion. Realization of the possibility of experiencing one or more of these handicaps culminates in obsession with the ultimate fear of curtailed independence.
What can one do to help?
If you have a family member, friend or neighbor advancing in age, you can determine to keep a watchful eye for signs of needing assistance in any area of daily life.
You can communicate the desire to assume chauffeuring duties for groceries and medical check ups.
You can show up with supplies and tools in hand to offer cleaning, gardening and home maintenance services.
You can visit consistently and often enough to measure significant changes in mental or physical abilities.
You can listen to concerns with kindness and compassion and no hint of being judgmental.
You can express empathy and understanding for the person in the grips of declining age.
You can mitigate guilty feelings by reminding your aged loved ones of all they have done for others in their past.
You can extend your concern to include volunteering your time and talents in your local community to assure no senior citizen is alone or without assistance.
You can be proactive and promote and vote on initiatives which are designed to enhance the lives of the elderly in your community. Most seniors are irrationally apologetic for their infirmity and reluctant to ask for assistance, or even to admit needing help.
Everyone cherishes freedom and independence. If you live long enough, you may experience curtailed independence in some form one day. Every generation ends up depending on the next generation to “pay it forward” and assist them with their various needs and handicaps when self sufficiency fades.
You can be “The village” for your aged loved ones and acquaintances and hope others will demonstrate the same compassion when it is your turn to face the problem of losing your independence.