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10 ways to stay independent in later life

Posted on 14/05/2014

Getting older doesn’t mean that life has to be any less exciting or fulfilling. Here are our top 10 tips for staying independent.

1. Exercise

Keeping fit is one of the best things that you can do to ensure your long-term health and to prevent or delay the onset of certain age-related conditions. There are dedicated classes that are aimed at older people, if you like the group environment, and you might also find things like walking groups in your local community. If you prefer to exercise on your own, then walking is a good low-impact hobby, as is swimming.

2. Eat right

Alongside exercise, eating well is key to long-term health. You don’t need to prepare complex dishes every day (unless you enjoy it of course), but try to make sure that you get plenty of fruit and vegetables, sources of protein, grains, complex carbohydrates, good fats and dairy. There is some evidence that eating a Mediterranean diet can help to prevent the onset of dementia. If you start to find cooking difficult, then there are plenty of meal delivery services available that give you fresh, healthy meals on a daily or weekly basis.

3. Keep your mind active

Reading, puzzles, quizzes, knitting… any task that keeps your mind busy and active is good for preventing some age-related conditions, such as dementia. Try and spend a little time every day doing something that’s good for your brain and reap the benefits in the future.

4. Sleep well

Life can often get in the way of getting our 7-8 hours a night, but it is very important. Sleep helps our body to repair itself, as well as give us energy, help us process the day’s activities and recover from illness or injury. Make sure that your room is designed as a quiet, calm sanctuary, blocking out light and away from electrical interference.

5. Be sociable  

Seeing other people and interacting with them is important to all of us. Loneliness can cause many problems, such as depression and ill health, so finding like-minded people with similar interests can help you to stay independent. This could be a coffee morning, a class at your local college or library, or an organised trip. Continue to enjoy life and have fun.

6. Find a hobby

Having a particular hobby will actually help you to achieve some of the other tips here. For example, if you are a keen knitter, then you might want to join a local knitting group where you can share patterns and help each other out, in turn making new friends. Or if you like photography, then you can go for long walks with your camera to find subjects to snap.

7. Consider volunteering

Being a volunteer comes with a wealth of advantages. It can make you feel appreciated, as well as giving you a sense of well-being. It can keep you fit (if you are helping with a gardening project for example), keep your mind active (for example, helping in a local charity shop) and help you to make new friends. It also helps to give your day structure that might be missing if you no longer work.

8. Get home help

Staying independent in your own home is not the same thing as not accepting help if you need it. By getting home help in the areas where you need support means that you can concentrate on living the rest of your life to the full. You might need to get someone to come in and cook for you, take you out to do the shopping, or keep your garden tidy so that you can enjoy it.

9. Use technology

Technology has its place in modern life. You can use it to keep in touch with your family, through phone calls, video calls and messaging, which can help if you don’t live close together. You can also use things like telecare and telehealth to keep you safe at home if you are worried about having a fall or not being able to contact someone in an emergency.

10. Take a break

We all need a holiday from time to time, and there is no reason why getting older should stop you from getting out there and seeing the world. There are loads of trips organised by local travel companies especially designed for older people travelling as a couple or alone, and take a look at companies like Saga for holidays and cruises. You’ll just need to make sure that you have the right insurance in place, and again it is better to go through a specialised company to get this. 

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