Most people don’t consider aged care until the time comes when they need to. But these days, support for Australians who are ageing is a lot more flexible. That’s because options exist for people to get the flexible, affordable support they need to remain living independently for longer. In fact, having that support available is one of the keys to successful independent living. We take a look at what other factors studies have shown contribute to maintaining independence for longer.
If you ask older Australians what they aspire for as they age, chances are, ‘remaining independent’ will be amongst the top goals. These days, most Australians aim to age ‘in place’, in the comfort and familiarity of their own home. But what are some of the things that can support that goal? We examine how you can take steps now to remain independent for longer.
1. Have support at hand
The Guardian recently took a look at ways in which housing design can encourage independent living. They interviewed a number of housing professionals who identified onsite care as a key aspect to creating homes that support independence. While most people do not have high care needs, help at hand creates an important ‘safety net’ for people as they age. When looking specifically at creating housing for people with dementia, building experts advocated for the removal of specific ‘dementia wings’ as;
“The stimulation of being part of a more diverse community and the support networks that emerge are far better for their wellbeing.”
Even if you’re not living in a retirement village, Mable allows you to access support you need from within your existing community. By engaging independent support workers who are also just ‘regular people’ from within your neighbourhood, you’re tapping into a network of help just around the corner when you might need it.
2. Stay connected to people and purpose
Supported by National Geographic, author Dan Buettner has spent a decade identifying the seven ‘blue zones’ – hot spots of longevity around the world. His research uncovered that, amongst other things, close social and familial bonds, a sense of purpose and a propensity to continue working longer were key factors in living longer and healthier lives.
For many Mable clients, engaging the support of an independent support worker is about helping them to remain connected to their community. Whether it’s simply about being able to visit their favourite barista a couple of times a week or attending a regular class or social event, there are lots of small ways to maintain important social connections. Having a social commitment, hobby or something to drive you can also go a long way to maintaining personal identity and mental health. Plus, multiple studies have shown that a little creativity later in life has multiple health benefits.
3. Move more
We know that people who live independently for longer remain healthier and happier. But the same could be said in reverse. Remaining as active as possible for as long as possible will help you to maintain the physical wellbeing you need for an independent life. Take it from two working mums who recently embarked on a project to test theories on how to live better and longer. As reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, their research identified four cornerstones to healthy ageing; diet, exercise, remaining socially and intellectually engaged and managing stress and surrounding environment. When it came to exercise, they recommended these principles to maintaining physical wellbeing:
- Work movement and exercise into your daily life, no matter how small – like a stretch or walk to the shop.
- Mix it up – a walk one day, lawn bowls the next
- As much as possible, seek out nature.
Exercise doesn’t need to be all-or-nothing. As we discovered, there are many small ways to improve your wellbeing one step at a time.
4. Get (virtually) connected
Staying connected is not just about remaining part of a community. These days, it’s also about adapting to technology that’s available to help you manage your affairs. Learning new skills in technology not only helps to exercise your brain, it’s equipping you with the tools that you can use to independently manage your financial affairs and life admin for longer. These days, that even extends to support you might need to live independently.
With platforms like Mable, you can find and directly engage support you might need at home, all from the comfort of your lounge, with an ipad. And you can use your Home Care Package funding to pay for it. Keep a look out for courses in technology and the internet available for older Australians like this one for tech savvy seniors in Sydney. You can even find someone via the Mable platform who can jump online and teach you some new tricks.
5. Be proactive about health concerns
As we age, it can be easy to accept health complaints as a normal part of ageing. Taking early action about a health complaint, or even just regular health screenings can help you address and even reverse health deterioration in older age. As reported here by Aged Care Guide, a study by Flinders University found that a full health screening at around age 40 revealed, on average, five unidentified health problems – even in healthy individuals. The good news was that many of these were reversible and simple changes in lifestyle led to health improvements amongst the participants within six months.
If you’re interested in finding out who’s offering support in your local area, you can search the Mable platform today. It’s free to sign up and engage with thousands of independent support workers offering services directly to clients.