How Moving to a Senior Living Community Can Help Seniors Maintain Their Independence
With 10,000 people turning 65 every day in the United States, there’s a keen interest in senior independence. What helps older adults continue to live happy, healthy, full — and autonomous — lives? There are a number of factors that go into keeping seniors independent. Some of these factors involve healthy lifestyle choices beginning well before the age of 65. But where seniors choose to live can also impact their independence, with evidence suggesting that senior independent living supports autonomy more effectively than aging in place.
How to Stay Independent as You Age
It will probably come as no surprise that the lifestyle choices that support healthy adulthood also contribute to older adults maintaining independence. A longitudinal study at Sweden’s Uppsala University found that smoking, diet, weight and exercise all impacted participants’ likelihood of maintaining their independence into their 80s.
Researchers followed the health and habits of men over a 16-year period, evaluating their independence at a mean age of 87. Independence was defined as being able to walk outdoors on their own and perform activities of daily living, such as bathing and dressing by themselves. They were also given cognitive tests and could not show signs of dementia. Researchers found three traits that were associated with independence:
- Never having smoked. Men who never smoked doubled their chance of maintaining their independence.
- Healthy diet. Many of the men who maintained their independence into their 80s followed a Mediterranean diet, with a high intake of fish, fruit, vegetables, nuts and cereals and a relatively low amount of meat and dairy products. In fact, healthy eating habits made participants three times more likely to remain independent.
- Waist circumference under 40 inches. Overall weight was less significant than avoiding excess abdominal fat.
Where You Live Matters, Too
While it’s never too late to benefit from healthy habits, there’s another step you can take to support independence as you age — choose the optimal living arrangement. Many seniors assume that remaining in their homes — also called aging in place — is the most independent choice they can make. But if you experience a health setback or your abilities decline, you may find that your freedom and independence become increasingly restricted, which can affect your ability to enjoy life. Declining physical and cognitive abilities make it more difficult to perform many tasks independently, including:
- Maintaining your home and yard
- Being socially engaged
- Driving to the grocery store, medical appointments, or other errands
- Tending to daily self-care tasks and meal preparation
The Benefits of Senior Independent Living
It may seem counterintuitive, but choosing a senior living community can help you remain independent longer and make life more enjoyable. Senior living communities have an array of services and amenities that make it easier for you to make your own choices and live life on your terms.
With housekeeping, groundskeeping and maintenance provided, you don’t have to worry about changing burned-out lightbulbs or keeping your yard tidy. Someone does that for you. Chef-prepared meals give you the luxury of letting someone else do the cooking, if you want. A community of new friends ensures you’re socially connected. And features like scheduled transportation, an on-campus library, a game room and hair salon provide accessibility so you can freely choose how to spend your day.
It’s no wonder that residents of senior living communities report a higher degree of satisfaction than nonresidents. According to one study, seniors in retirement communities are more likely to:
- Stay healthier longer
- Feel less lonely
- Enjoy life more
- Be more active
- Feel more secure
- Have a greater sense of control over their lives
Independent Senior Living at Autumn Leaves
If you’re looking for an independent lifestyle that supports healthy aging and joyful living, come visit us at Autumn Leaves. Our cozy, pet-friendly community is within walking distance of White Rock Lake, and offers a variety of floor plans to suit your needs and preferences. Each spacious senior living apartment has a full kitchen and a balcony or patio, creating a private haven where you’ll feel right at home. Contact us to find out more or to schedule a tour.