What Matters Most to Seniors During the Golden Years?
Quality of life issues rank high on the list of concerns family members face as their loved ones begin to age. Will Mom and Dad enjoy retirement and relish their golden years, or will they be one of the 7 million Americans over the age of 65 who experience depression? While it may not be possible to fully control the answer to this question, family members can substantially influence their loved ones’ quality of life by seeking to understand what matters most to people during retirement and beyond.
Five Ways to Increase Senior Quality of Life
Small steps can make a huge difference in the quality of life seniors experience as they age. A 2013 survey conducted by the National Council on Aging found that maintaining relationships with the people they love mattered more to seniors than having a large nest egg to draw on. By taking a few simple steps, family members can help their elderly loved ones live happy, healthy lives during their retirement years.
- Buy them a computer and teach them how to use it. Eighty-one percent of the seniors in the survey said they considered technology important for remaining connected with their loved ones and friends. However, many seniors either don’t have computer access or don’t know how to use it for the most benefit. Consider taking a weekend to provide hands-on teaching for your elderly family members as they learn to navigate email, Facebook, and Google.
- Help them become part of an active community. Feelings of isolation can be drastically reduced if seniors become involved in community outings or projects. Whether it’s participating in Bingo night at a community center or taking walks with a group of friends, social interaction makes a big difference in how seniors feel about themselves and their circumstances.
- Help them set health goals and take steps to meet those goals. Sixty-five percent of seniors have two or more chronic health conditions, and many don’t have anyone to help them manage their health appropriately. More than one-quarter of seniors exercise less than 30 minutes per week. By helping seniors understand their health and make better choices like exercising and eating healthy meals, family members can help them have more energy and feel better about themselves.
- Let them see their grandchildren regularly. Almost half of seniors say that the best part of aging is watching their children and grandchildren grow up. Seeing grandchildren grow through the teenage years and into adulthood is a privilege most previous generations haven’t enjoyed. With more seniors living to age 100 and beyond, the opportunity to remain involved in the lives of grandchildren is one that shouldn’t be overlooked.
- Consider in-home care. As loved ones age, they sometimes need more care than family members can provide through regular visits and phone calls. An in-home caregiver can give seniors the opportunity to remain in their own homes while still receiving the assistance they need. Caregivers can provide mobility assistance, medication reminders, transportation to medical appointments, and–perhaps most importantly–companionship.
When You Need More Help
There will come a time in every senior’s life when he or she can no longer provide adequate self-care. When that time comes, family members should be ready to make hard decisions about what kind of care to choose. In-home caregivers help seniors remain at home longer, which is one way to help them experience greater quality of life. If extensive medical care is needed, other care options may be indicated. End-of-life care decisions are never easy, especially if an elderly person resists the idea that he or she needs extra help. But family members can help by transitioning gradually and keeping the living environment as familiar as possible.
Quality of Life Decisions
Because seniors often live alone, it can be easy to miss signs that their quality of life is suffering. If you notice lack of hygiene, an unusual lack of cleanliness in the home, insufficient food, or unusual lack of energy in your loved one, he or she may be experiencing depression or the beginning of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Talk to your family doctor in order to identify any underlying health causes, and then take steps to help your loved one connect with people they care about and improve their personal health in order to enjoy their golden years to the fullest.
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