Four Life Hacks to Stay Independent

Actuaries predict that one of four adults now over 65 will live to be 90. You probably choose to be not just among the living, but also to stay independent. I’m with you all the way. At 90 and beyond I want to be safe, well and engaged in as full a life as I have today.

Stay Independent; Avoid Falls

  • One in four Americans aged 65+ falls each year.
  • Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall; every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall.
  • Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults.
  • Falls, with or without injury, also carry a heavy quality of life impact. A growing number of older adults fear falling and, as a result, limit their activities and social engagements. This can result in further physical decline, depression, social isolation, and feelings of helplessness.

These facts are why I’m recommending the Four Life Hacks below. Take action on any that speak to you. They’re simple reminders of what you can do now to avoid the slippery slope to disability, isolation and possibly death. No pun intended.

1 – Stand Up for Yourself

So your joints ache when you get up in the morning or after you’ve done activity that would have been a breeze just a few years ago. Osteoarthritis is common in older adults. Did you know that joining a “Chronic Disease Self-Management Program” helps participants take control of their symptoms like pain or fatigue and reduce reliance on medications. 

Person exercising to remain independent

Don’t be a couch potato. Avoid “resting your joints” too much or not moving them regularly. Remember the Tin Man? Moving your joints is like oiling them. Doing so stimulates oxygen-rich circulation, allowing your joints to “breathe” and release pain. Take the first step, literally, toward improving your balance, flexibility, stamina and confidence by visiting www.eldercare.gov or calling 1-800-677-1116.

Your local Area Agency on Aging can direct you to one of these community programs: A Matter of BalanceStepping OnOtago Exercise Program, or Tai Chi. Don’t give in to infirmity. Stand up for yourself, stay independent and have fun!

2 – Don’t Fall for “Magic Bullets”

Medical and pharmaceutical research has contributed to our longevity. Many of us live well with chronic conditions that are managed by taking prescribed medication per doctor’s orders. And many of us take over the counter meds and nutritional supplements as well. Sometimes those “magic bullets” come with side effects – and everyone of us is different.

a pile of pills
A magic bullet or a trouble-maker?

Ask your doctor for advice if you believe any medication or combination thereof is causing dizziness or other troublesome symptoms. Don’t be shy. If you’ve fallen previously your doctor needs to know about it. Together you can do a fall risk assessment and increase your self-reliance.

3 – Use Your Common Senses

A person in a wheelchair. To remain independent we must use all our senses and our common sense and creativity.

You know, we have five. Some say taste, smell and touch are the most pleasurable. But hearing and sight are the most important to staying independent. As either one diminishes, we’re less sure of the space around us. Walking and driving can become riskier if our eyesight or ability to hear alerts or danger approaching is compromised. Have an eye and hearing evaluation once a year. Don’t resist the hearing aid or eye glasses for vanity’s sake. Stay mobile; remain independent.

4 – Clarity Begins at Home

A road sign warning against slips and falls. To remain independent we must remove tripping hazards and make our homes safe in other ways.

Clear the decks to keep your home safe. Remove tripping hazards, increase lighting, make stairs safe, and install grab bars in key areas. In the garden, edges attract birds. In the house, edges should attract your eyes to avoid falls. Get rid of slippery throw mats or area rugs thick enough to catch the toes of your shoes. Either mark stair treads with safety tape or ensure good lighting on each riser. Add light in your shower and hallways; a night light between the bedroom and the toilet. And get over that habit of leaving shoes where you take them off, books or magazines on the floor. Any object in an unusual place is a fall waiting to happen. 

The US CDC shows that Fall Death Rates in the US increased 30% from 2007 to 2016. Remain independent; avoid falls.

A Guide to Help You Stay Independent and Mobile

Older adults give the "thumbs up" to encourage us to use the mobility planning tool offered as a guide to remain independent.

This mobility planning tool (pdf) can guide you to take action today to help keep yourself—or your loved ones—safe, mobile, and independent tomorrow. It was developed by The Centers for Disease Control, using available scientific evidence, to help older adults plan for future mobility changes that might increase their risk for motor vehicle crashes and falls. Adult children or caregivers can also use this planning tool to help older parents, relatives, or friends. 

Let’s you and I remain independent together. I’ll be happy to drive over for your 90th birthday.

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