There are ways that well-meaning people can inadvertently diminish a senior loved one’s independence. Even the best of intentions can chip away at the autonomy and self-confidence of older individuals, which may have lasting results. Here are some tips to recognize these situations and how to stop them.
Are you supporting the independence of a senior that you love? Without even realizing it, well-intended loved ones can inadvertently diminish the senior’s independence and autonomy, through behaviors, attitudes, and words. Many theorists claim that this attitude toward older people is a result of modernization and that with societal growth and evolution, the roles of older people are diminished, possibly leading to exclusion. Do you subscribe to this theory?
For seniors with physical limitations or mobility issues, speak with them about visiting the idea of mobility aids; but always leave the decision up to them.
Consider the ways that society inadvertently diminishes seniors’ independence and ways to stop doing it:
Too Much Help
There is such a thing as helping too much and this may send a sign to a senior that you do not believe they are capable of the tasks you are doing for them. Allow seniors the freedom to take on the challenges of everyday life and wait for them to ask for assistance. It may seem counterproductive, but it goes a long way toward demonstrating that you respect their independence and autonomy.
Seniors are misunderstood in society it is that simple. Negative stereotypes regarding older individuals abound, including that seniors don’t work or contribute to society. Seniors are living longer and often feel younger than their age. Avoid misunderstanding this generation by ignoring stereotypes and stigmas. Better yet, become an informed advocate for an older loved one. Reach out to area resources and support, like Area Agencies on Aging, for help or advice.
Similarly, many people underestimate the potential of older people. Remember that today’s techy world is less labor intensive than it used to be, so many of retirement age are remaining in the workforce. Many seniors choose remaining active over retirement or they treat their golden years as a chance to change professions, go back to school, or travel. Do not underestimate or assume to know what somebody else may choose to do.
Ageism in society will eventually impact all of us. It comes in many forms, from blatant ageism at work to more subtle hints of bias in public. The older generation is often made to be the brunt of stereotypical jokes that mock and poke fun at the elderly, reinforcing the stigmas that have created this perception of older people.
So, what are the stereotypes often seen in ageist behavior? Some pertaining to seniors includes:
- Being visually or hearing impaired due to age
- Frail or weak
- Stubborn and irritable
- Unable to grasp technology
- Waiting for retirement
- Unable to learn new concepts or skills
Don’t perpetuate stereotypes by retelling or condoning jokes that condemn seniors. Remember that the words you speak have power; make them count.
The workplace can be a very hostile and unkind environment for an older person. The types of discrimination and ageism seen here can be debilitating and hurtful. While there are federal laws in place to protect this demographic, there is still work to do. Older people have a more challenging time finding work if they are laid off or unemployed in their 50s even though they are a long way from retirement age with much to offer. What can you do? If you are an entrepreneur or business owner, hire a senior. Benefit from the expertise and life experience that they bring to the table.
What You Can Do
Treat seniors with the same respect and dignity that you want, and expect, from those around you. Be an ally and support their autonomy with some basic tips from aging experts:
- Help to ensure safety, from providing a ride to going the extra mile to make their home environment safer. As always, offer but don’t push; many won’t ask but are happy to accept.
- Connectedness is key across the lifespan. Help them remain connected by checking in, getting together, and inviting them to share moments and experiences with you and others.
- Technology is amazing. With a little bit of orientation, seniors may quickly adapt to a new phone, laptop, or program that improves their quality of life in many ways.
- Listen and hear what the senior says to you. Give them the opportunity to share their opinions and preferences.
- Encourage exercise. It is really the key to aging well and can be an effective combatant against a nasty fall.
Another way to reinforce autonomy and support the independence of someone you love is to have a conversation about mobility aids. Does the senior have physical limitations or mobility issues? There are aids and equipment that can greatly enhance, improve, and add ease to everyday life. Be respectful of the individual’s choices, but make sure they know that they have options.
Foster a senior’s independence with mobility solutions that improve quality of life. Talk to the qualified professionals at Pacific Mobility to learn more about aids and equipment that enhance accessibility and facilitate autonomy.
President, Husband, Father, Grandfather Graduate of UC Davis- Bio Sci Major- Go Aggies! Jeff has extensive experience in all of Pacific Mobility’s products and services, and specializes in accessibility products as well as stairlifts, ceiling lifts and custom wheel chairs. His hobbies include spending time with family, gardening, mountain biking, exercising and off road motorcycle riding.
24 years as Owner/President of Pacific Mobility Center – selling, installing, and servicing stairlifts, porch lifts, ceiling lifts, pool lifts, handicap ramping, specialty wheelchairs, scooters, power wheel chairs, and other power mobility devices
Certified Environmental Access Consultant since 2008
Licensed General Contractor since 1998
Certified Aging in Place Specialist since 2016
Board Member for Home Access Professionals
Member of Association of Members of the Accessibility Equipment Industry (AEMA)