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Does Our Desire For Independence Actually Make Us Less Independent?

As we celebrated our nation’s independence earlier this month, our thoughts turned to another kind of independence.  As older adults, most of us strive to stay as independent as we can for as long as we can.  When compared to other countries where communal living is more commonplace, the desire to maintain our individualism is more pronounced in the United States.  We are proud to be self-sufficient, we take honor from being able to make it on our own or pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and sometimes this makes it difficult to admit that we need help as we age or that we could benefit from living among our others in a community environment.  We refuse to leave our houses and, in many cases, this idea of being more independent in our houses actually causes us to become less independent as our abilities and needs change over time.

Our pride, our desire for familiar surroundings, our fear of institutionalization and its costs have led us to fight to stay in homes we can rarely leave, says Paula Span in her 2015 New York Times article. In addition, a 2012 Forbes Magazine article, titled “The Grim Impact of Loneliness and Living Alone,” cites a study that found that 43 percent of the 1,604 study participants (average age 71) reported feeling lonely.  In the worst cases, this loneliness can transform into something else.  Depression is more common in those older adults who report being loneliness.  Being alone and depressed can impact physical and mental health in those affected by it.  Loneliness for those over the age of 60 leads to an increased risk of functional decline and death.  At John Knox Village East, you’ll never have to worry about being alone and being able to be social with others is as simple as a walk down the hall to the Friendship Lounge.  We take great pride in caring for older adults and keeping people as active and as independent as their health will allow.

This doesn’t mean that everyone who lives alone will be lonely. Some people are perfectly comfortable in solitude.  However, there are ample opportunities for reflection and time alone in Independent Living or Assisted Living communities, but some people take comfort in having healthcare professionals nearby if an emergency should occur.  Also, there is a difference between those people who are alone because they choose to be and those who are by themselves because they are less mobile and have a smaller social circle.  Many times people also feel more independent as they don’t have to shoulder their burdens alone.  They can spend their time doing what they want to rather than what they feel like they have to.  The support systems that are in place in a continuing care retirement community can enable people to stay out of a nursing home longer than they would have if they had remained in their traditional house.  Some of these programs include regular exercise, nutritious meals, educational programs, social activities and more.  There’s also the opportunity to have readily available access to rehab services to get you back on your fee and back home as quickly as possible.

While being independent and standing on our own two feet are traits we all admire, there can come a time in our lives when going it alone can be detrimental to our well-being. Ask yourself if you’re choosing solitude or if your circumstances have created a solitary environment for you.  As we age, making a move can become more difficult and then when you need to transition into a senior living community, you no longer feel up to it.

Call us at 660-584-4416 to find out how we can help you stay safe, actively and ultimately more independent.

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