The power of independent choices as you age

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As we roll into another Fourth of July, let’s remember the true meaning of Independence Day. On July 4, 1776, the country’s leaders signed the Declaration of Independence, with the resolve of the U.S. to become a free country. This independence has allowed the country to offer our citizens the options to choose our paths and to grow into what I believe is a great nation.

Our forefathers most likely did not have the foresight to see how large our country would grow. Nor could they see the medical or technological advances that would allow so many people to live long lives. However, they set the foundation for us to gain our independence and, in most cases, have freedom of choice in how we live our lives.

None of us have the option of avoiding aging; however, we do have the freedom of choice to determine how we face new chapters.

Maintaining our individual independence has benefits for our nation, as our societal systems have not evolved fast enough to support our country’s fastest growing population: senior citizens, or “super adults.” Yet, it is our individual ability to make choices to support ourselves as we get older that can be a game-changer to how we live the rest of our lives.

Setting ourselves up for success is the key. Conversations with our spouses and family, awareness of our options, and insight into how we can support ourselves and loved ones are crucial.

Talk to your spouse and/or family about financial and life skill issues. Are you empowered to continue your quality of life if your spouse dies? Do you have a housing plan that enables you to stay in your home or to move to a desired location? Do you have a long term plan if assistance is eventually needed? Do you or your spouse have the skillset (and access) to maintain monthly management of accounts or to simply support yourself, whether it be maintaining the house, cooking a nutritious meal or transporting yourself?

Estate and advanced care plans enable you to have your needs addressed and establish a plan before situations change. Change is inevitable as we get older, but these are the realistic conversations we need to have so that we can maintain the independence we want.

Aging in your current home means setting up your home to make it safer. There are options to make your home secure with better anti-fall systems and better bathroom utilities to raise toilets and improve access to bathtubs.

If you have an older family member who spends time in your home, also consider improving its safety. If you know you will not be able to maintain your home, then look at support services such as lawn care, home maintenance and home care service providers.

If you know you will need to move, establishing options now empowers you. Hold onto memories by identifying keepsakes important to you, transition physical pictures into digital copies, and make sure your financial and personal paperwork is accessible and in a secure place. Creating a plan for future housing – whether you plan to live with family, need affordable housing or assisted living – can give peace of mind.

As executive director of Blaine Senior Center, my goal is to offer a community that supports you from the age of 50 to hopefully 100-plus. In addition to creating community, our goal is to educate members on their future options, help with life game plans, establish support networks and ignite skills training.

I embrace Blaine’s seniors by supporting independence and the right to choice as we get older.

Pete Nelson is executive director of Blaine Senior Center.

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