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Independence Doesn’t Mean Going It Alone

Doing things for ourselves makes us proud. For our whole lives, we’re told to work hard, try new things, and stay busy. This is all part of how we demonstrate our personal independence. But as we age, our bodies (and budgets) change. Our understanding of independence must change along with them.

80% of Americans aged 65 or older have at least one chronic condition. A majority of us are worried about whether we’ll have enough money to last through retirement. These issues affect our wallets, our routines, and sometimes our ability to enjoy what makes us happy. In short, they threaten our independence.

It’s okay to admit that’s intimidating! Acknowledging these concerns to ourselves gives us clear goals. Expressing these concerns to our loved ones puts us on a path to preserving our independence with people we trust. Knowing we have help makes all of aging’s twists and turns easier to navigate.

Asking for help isn’t weakness

Help comes in many forms. Maybe a friend recommends a benefits program that makes your budget bigger. Your grandchild might do your shopping when you’re unable to. Or perhaps your doctor proactively suggests a tai chi class to build your strength and balance. Each of these things would protect your independence, but be honest: would you react to each one the same way? It’s worth considering why.

Set yourself up for success by knowing who you’re comfortable asking for help. Encourage yourself to ask more often. Learn about things you’re dealing with now and things you might face later. All that work results in more independence down the road, even if it looks a little different than you might have imagined years ago.

Celebrate your age

NCOA President and CEO James Firman once said:

You can have a great old age, but you need to work at it. Luck and genes are a contributing factor, but you can greatly increase your odds of living long and well by learning the art and science of longevity and by cultivating daily habits like mindfulness, regular exercise, watching what you eat, being kind to others, and constantly learning and growing.

Independence as we age is found in the new kinds of choices we can make each day. It’s in the differences we choose to make in our communities. It’s in the ways we use our life experience. It’s in the ways we use our time. That’s as exciting as any fireworks show.

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About Dan Reiner

Dan Reiner is Content Manager at the National Council on Aging. He lives in an inter-generational household with his parents, brother, wife, and three children.