As we get older, remaining independent for as long as possible will be a top priority for many of us.  According to research highlighted by the Good Care Group, 97 per cent of older people want to remain in their own homes for the rest of their life, rather than moving into residential care.

It’s inevitable that as people get older, they’ll need more assistance. But putting in place the right support to keep them active and able to do as much as possible can ensure older people stay in charge of their own retirement and keep them healthy and active for longer.

The benefits of staying independent

Staying independent offers a wide range of benefits for older people, as it can improve both their physical and mental health.

For instance, living independently helps keep elderly individuals’ minds active, which reduces some of the memory loss and other cognitive decline issues often associated with old age.

The link between good physical health and strong mental health is well-known, and this works both ways. People who keep their minds active are also more likely to remain physically active as well. This might be heading out to the shops, tending to a garden or taking part in exercise programmes either in the home or the community.

Maintaining independence also helps give older people a greater sense of purpose and identity. Being able to set their own routine, keep in contact with friends and relatives and continue doing activities they enjoy helps prevent feelings of depression or isolation, which Age UK notes are very common among older people.

The challenges facing older people and independence

As well as any physical limitations that people may find themselves struggling with as they get older, one of the major barriers to independence for many individuals may be concern about what might happen should they have an issue.

Falls, for example, are a common worry for older people. Age UK notes this is the leading cause of injury for elderly individuals, with around a third of over-65s and half of those aged 80 and over experiencing a fall at least once a year.

Worries about this can easily lead to older people curtailing their activities, so it’s vital that they have the support and assistance they need to gain peace of mind and minimise their risk.

Of course, it’s not only older people themselves who worry about their health as they age. Family members as well will naturally be concerned, so may often be around to help out and provide assistance. But while well-intentioned, it’s important to strike a good balance with this, as elderly people may become frustrated if they feel they’re being constantly checked on.

How to preserve independence

To deal with these concerns, it’s vital older people have the right equipment and support networks available. This can start, for instance, with the addition of items such as railings, stair lifts or even simply moving kitchen items to more accessible cupboards.

But while making adaptations to the home in order to make life easier is a good start, it’s only one part of promoting independence. For example, it’s also important for older people to feel confident to get out and about.

While they may feel safer staying at home, this can actually increase social isolation, so encouraging them to visit friends and relatives or go shopping where possible can be hugely helpful. If people are worried about what might happen if they leave their home, there are a range of tools and technologies such as alert pendants or wrist watches that can give them peace of mind and connect them to support networks or emergency services.

Maintaining independence isn’t just about ensuring older people are physically capable of looking after themselves. Being able to make their own choices about their everyday activities, giving them as much input and control over their lives as possible, contributes hugely to better mental health and acuity as people age.

With the right solutions, such as monitoring and assistance technologies, not only will older people enjoy the benefits of maintaining independence for longer, both they and their family can get greater peace of mind they are safe in their own homes.