Many countries with low birth rates are facing an aging population problem, and their governments are taking steps to see how best to handle this issue.
It is a known fact that seniors face medical issues and need assistance or special care as their age progresses. So, can seniors age independently?
Technology in the medical field has made many advancements. There are many medical devices and aids to help seniors live independently for longer periods of time.
Seniors can commonly be seen using canes and scooters for easy mobility.
There are new technologies being invented to ensure the safety of the seniors while they live on their own. One example is the “personal medical alert system” which is available in certain countries. This alert system enables seniors to contact dedicated medical hotlines for quick assistance in case of emergencies.
Another example is the use of CCTV in homes. Seniors can be monitored by family members, though there is a certain loss of privacy. Family members can detect falls or accidents and call for medical assistance quickly.
Smart phones have downloadable programs that seniors can use to remind them to go for appointments or take their medications on time.
Aging in place
Rather than simply being placed in a retirement home or nursing home, older people want to have the choice about where and how they age in place. This is based on functionality and emotional attachments.
Aging in place is defined as “remaining living in the community, with some level of independence rather than in residential care”. The good part when a senior is given a certain sense of independence, his or her mind is kept active, and he or she tends to be more mobile.
The “aging in place” movement encourages seniors to be more self-reliant. This allows seniors to stay in their own home as far as possible.
A life of convenience
In a retirement home, things are sometimes too convenient, i.e., meals and medication are provided on time, and nearly everything else is taken care off by care providers. Many seniors begin to take things for granted and easily backslide on things they once were actively engaged or interested in.
Mobility is an issue for most seniors in retirement homes. However, most retirement homes now have therapists or trainers coming in on a daily basis to encourage seniors to move more.
Seniors should “plan” their retirement
What is suggested is seniors is to be proactive about planning well for their golden years. Dr Mary Langulrand co-authored the book “How to Age in Place”.
Dr Langulrand’s advice to seniors is to “think about how they might need to change their lives or environments in order to ensure that they’re going to be able to retire and live comfortably where they want to live and be doing what they want to be doing.”
Many seniors still need some assistance with daily tasks. This is according to a study by the University of Michigan published in the American Journal of Public Health.
More than 8,000 seniors participated in the study. Researchers found that 90 percent of seniors were able to eat without being aided. However, they also found only 54 percent could bathe without help.
As people age, their dependence on others increases. The study revealed that 31 percent of the people were fully independent. But only 4 percent of seniors 90 years and above were still fully independent.
Design your home to age in place
Seniors who decide to stay at home should ensure their homes are re-designed to suit future mobility challenges. Simple issues could be like planning sufficient space for a wheelchair or walker to pass through, or ramps to replace steps in the future. Chair lifts can be installed to make going up and down floors easier.
Kitchen cabinets and cooking space heights should be considered as well. The bathrooms and toilets should have safety features in installed as well. Kitchens and bathrooms are where most falls take place, so plan well here.
Seniors can consult home design specialists for the best advice that will take their physical limitations into consideration.
Conclusion: With some good planning, and with the help of modern technology, it is possible for seniors to age at home independently for a longer period of time. Family members are able to keep an eye on their loved ones with the use of CCTV. Seniors can use their smart phones to help remind them on certain tasks or appointments.
Of course there may come a day when seniors are unable to stay on their own independently. But until that day arrives, they should be encouraged to do so, in a well-planned and safe environment.
9th January 2021 23:00