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Family caregivers can offer a tremendous amount of support for older adults. But for those who do not have a caregiver, there are plenty of ways that seniors can stay safe and confident while living independently.
The responsibilities of daily life can be difficult to navigate alone as you age. Research in the Journal Current Gerontology and Geriatrics Research found that older adults living alone or without assistance could face serious hardship due to a single illness or injury. This highlights the need for independent seniors to take proactive steps to mitigate risk or unforeseen challenges. Here are some of the most important tips to consider:
Adopt healthy habits
Prioritizing healthy living is especially important in old age. Poor diet or a lack of physical exercise can increase the odds of developing a number of chronic conditions that can make daily life more difficult. Likewise, smoking tobacco or drinking alcohol in excess is quite deleterious.
Older adults should find ways to integrate fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains into every meal while enjoying foods with sugar and saturated fat in moderation. Staying active is also key for any seniors living alone. Going for walks is a good way to exercise, but joining a yoga class or other weekly workout can also represent an opportunity to socialize.
Account for possible hazards
The American Geriatrics Society's Health in Aging Foundation found that older adults can lower the odds of a dangerous fall or other adverse event by making changes around the home. For example, household clutter or a broken stair railing could unwittingly lead to injury.
It's also wise to make things as comfortable and convenient as possible. Medications and emergency items should be organized and easily accessible. Turning a downstairs parlor into a bedroom may also be helpful for anyone living with mobility issues.
Work with your primary care physician
A doctor can outline the best ideas for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and reducing possible risks. A primary care physician can make recommendations based on specific health history or ailments. An individual living with arthritis, for example, may employ different independent living tips than his or her peers, and personalized advice can make a big difference.
Ask for help
Even without an official caregiver, older adults should always feel comfortable and confident in asking for help from friends and family to take care of some daily responsibilities. It can be difficult to navigate legal documents related to retirement or healthcare expenses and other things, but spending an afternoon with a loved one can help to organize any outstanding bills or other considerations.
Stay proactive about living arrangements
Maria Torroella Carney, chief of geriatric and palliative medicine at Northwell Health of Great Neck, New York told AARP that older adults living without the assistance of a caregiver may benefit from a change in living arrangement. A smaller condo or apartment that's within walking distance of a pharmacy or market may be more convenient than an older home in the suburbs.
Assisted living is also a useful option for older adults, according to Carney. In that way, not only is support always accessible, but the opportunities to socialize and stay active are right at your fingertips. If you think you would benefit from support or formal care, use this questionnaire to evaluate your specific needs.