Ways to Encourage Seniors in Your Life to Maintain Independence 

Shandra Martinez

| 3 min read

Portrait of a daughter holding her elderly father, sitting on a bed by a window in her father's room.
Independence is a touchstone for all Americans. The very idea of it is woven into the creation of our country, and being able to work, worship and move around as we wish are values we hold dear.
As seniors age, it’s important they find ways to maintain their independence so they can continue having the lifestyle they want.
Many people in the United States cling to their independence as they get older. That lifestyle choice sets Americans apart from many other countries. A recent Pew Research Center study showed 27% of adults in the U.S. ages 60 and older live alone, compared with just 16% of adults who live that way in 130 other countries and territories in the study. In Asian-Pacific countries and those in the Middle East-North Africa regions, the number of older adults living alone is fewer than 5%.
Worldwide, the most common living arrangement for older adults is being part of an extended-family household, which might include grown children, grandchildren and other relatives. But in the U.S., only 6% of older adults live this way.
For older Americans, being able to maintain their independence is important to their physical and mental health. So whether they live alone, as part of a couple, or in an extended family or retirement home setting, there are ways to make sure the seniors in your life are staying as independent as possible.
Have an active social life. This may sound like advice for teenagers, but it is vital for seniors to have a meaningful, rich array of social connections. Research has shown that adults who have a strong social network – people to connect with, places to go – reap physical and mental health benefits. Having a full life makes people happier and healthier. For older adults who live alone and no longer work, their social circle may be their biggest connection to the outside world. This may include friends in their neighborhood, people they see regularly at their place of worship or in their town, or family members who keep in touch by phone or in person.
Social routines. Seniors with social lives often have routines or scheduled activities that round out their days. This could be meeting friends for morning coffee-when safe to do so or- setting aside a little time for a daily text or weekly phone call with a child or grandchild. Routines that offer a social connection give people something to look forward to.
Exercise. For seniors, staying physically active is directly linked to maintaining independence, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Making sure daily exercise is part of a routine – even if it’s just a morning or evening walk – can keep many chronic health issues at bay. Staying in shape helps people maintain their ability to live independently by keeping their bodies strong, reducing the risk of falls and broken bones.
Busy Brains. Seniors can see big benefits by having their favorite buffet of brain games. This might include a daily crossword puzzle, word problems, card games, chess, board games like Scrabble or even reading a mystery novel. Think of it as flexing your brain with a little mental exercise. Studies have shown activities or hobbies that stimulate the brain are linked to reduced risk of developing dementia and mild cognitive impairment disorders as people age.

A Healthier Michigan is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
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