February is National Senior Independence Month!
It’s a time set aside for older adults to celebrate their ability to live as they choose, and to take stock of what they can do to ensure their safety, independence, and wellbeing. Here are just a few ideas regarding what older adults and their families, friends, and other members of their social networks can do this month to maintain and even increase convenience, health, ease, and quality of life.
Get a home safety assessment done
An evaluation by a certified senior home safety specialist (SHSS) can help identify safety hazards, both inside and outside the home, that could lead to tripping, falls, scrapes, fires, and restricted mobility, such as:
- Narrow doorways
- High thresholds
- Loose banisters
- Low lighting
- Unmarked and slippery stairs
- Scattered and exposed wires
- Slippery wet spaces
- Upturned or unanchored area rugs
- Congested furniture arrangements
An SHSS can provide solutions to these and other dangers to help protect your person and your autonomy.
Get rid of clutter
Even if you don’t hoard, it’s easy for clutter to build up both in your home and your yard. Piles of mail, magazines, and catalogs can grow on tables and in corners; clothing and towels can lie on the floor; dog and cat toys may be strewn about; wires can extend out from a power strip in every direction like tentacles waiting to grab you by the ankle.
Clutter, especially how much of it there is and its location, can be a tripping hazard and a fire hazard, and also lead to distraction and confusion. Clutter outside the house can also attract wildlife like snakes, rodents, and insects by providing hiding spaces for them. A clean and organized environment can not only keep you safe, it can also boost your mood and help maintain your property value.
Repair and add assistive devices, as necessary
As we age, our eyesight and hearing may become reduced; we lose muscle mass and have to work harder to build and maintain strength; we may start to heal more slowly from injuries or overexertion. These changes don’t have to mean the loss of independence, but certain adjustments and assistive devices may be necessary to help us keep doing what we want and need to do.
The world of assistive aids goes far beyond canes, walkers, and hearing aids. If you’ve ever worn glasses, turned on a lamp, used a shoe horn, held onto a banister, or used an elevator or escalator, then you’ve used an assistive device. In and around your home, you can:
- Secure banisters, doorknobs, and threshold covers
- Add task lighting
- Install grab bars by the toilet, bathtub, and shower
- Buy a shower seat (or obtain one for free at your local senior center)
- Place non-skid tape in the bathrooms and kitchen, and reflective tape by your top and bottom stairs
- Use a plastic grabber to reach high objects and a rubber gripper to open jars
- Organize and store tools and items you don’t use daily in a bin
Ask your local senior center or area agency on aging if they have free devices available and/or volunteers who can install grab bars, build a ramp, or perform other services to help you stay in your home as long as you wish to stay there.
Make friends with technology
If you’re not already taking advantage of current technology, National Senior Independence Month is a good time to start exploring the myriad options available to you.
Computers and cell phones are two of the best companions for older adults (or anyone, for that matter) who lives alone and wants to remain independent. They enable you to:
- Stay connected with friends and family via phone, text, and email
- Meet new people through Zoom classes and conferences
- Exercise your mind with games and research
- Travel virtually
- Always have instant access to emergency services
How businesses can participate in Senior Independence Month
Friends and family members aren’t the only ones who can take an active role in National Senior Independence Month. Businesses and other community partners can take this opportunity to evaluate the senior-friendliness of their products, services, physical locations, and even marketing materials. For instance, do you have:
- Large-print versions of your brochures?
- Moveable mini-ramps by your high threshold, to make it easier for older adults to get through your front door?
- A grab bar in your bathroom?
- Enough room in your main business space for someone with a walker or motorized scooter to turn around in?
Even younger people with disabilities could benefit from these. How else might you you’re your business more welcoming to older adults? Taking steps toward greater inclusion can broaden your client base through both accessibility and good will.
Other ways to observe National Senior Independence Month
There are many ways to observe and celebrate National Senior Independence Month. This is a great time to:
- Start volunteering at a senior center, nursing home, or other organization that either serves older adults or is run by older adults.
- Speak about Senior Independence Month on social media, and share the tips provided in this article.
- Donate money to nonprofits that help support the welfare and wellbeing of older adults, particularly those most vulnerable. Some seniors are trying to stay in their homes, while others don’t even have homes to stay in.
- Watch videos, take classes, and subscribe to newsletters that teach about healthy aging.
- Join your local senior center, walking club, community theater troupe, book club, dance or art studio, choir, or hobby meetup. Socialization is critical for physical, cognitive, and emotional health.
However you decide to observe National Senior Independence Month, enjoy it, stay safe, and remember that it’s smart to ask for help when you need it.
Guest post By Margalo Eden The views expressed by the author may not reflect the views of Age Safe America, LLC. The content here should not be taken as medical, legal or financial advice. The content here is for informational purposes only, and because each person is so unique, please consult your own healthcare, legal or financial professional with any questions.