Planning Ahead, Seeking Help Crucial for Independent Living as We Age

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Aging Well

Most elders value independence and quality of life more than longevity, says Paul Takahashi, M.D., a Mayo Clinic geriatrician. In the December issue of Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource, he offers perspective on how elders can maintain a sense of independence.

  • Adapt your environment to your abilities. Just as a child uses a step stool to reach the kitchen sink, use tools and techniques to adapt to physical limitations. It could be adding a bench to the bathtub or asking for a ride to the grocery story.

  • Set goals and plan for the future. Focus on maintaining your physical health by exercising and staying active, managing chronic health conditions, eating a healthy diet and staying connected with family and friends.

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  • Ask for help when you need it. You might need help making sure your bills get paid, mowing the lawn or doing house projects. At some point, you may need to ask about using a walker to get around the house, having meals delivered or having a nurse visit once a week.

  • Find the resources you need. Family members, faith-based community resources, nonprofit community programs and businesses have options to provide housekeeping help, yard care, meals, transportation or nursing care. Talk to your doctor, family members or community service organizations about what services or options are available.

Whether you are in your own home, senior apartment, assisted living or a nursing home, keeping your independence means maintaining the highest level of functioning. Whatever your situation, don't be reluctant to ask for what you need to maintain independence.

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