Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once wrote, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.” One of the things that might cause the elderly to lose their zest for life is becoming dependent on others.
That was certainly the case for my elderly uncle. While he was sharp as a tack mentally, debilitating arthritis caused him to use first a walker and then a wheelchair to get around his home. Eventually, a nurse had to come in to help him do things like bathe and dress, but he was on his own the rest of the time.
While he managed around the house just fine with the help of his nurse, he refused to go farther than his front porch or his backyard. He was letting his fear of becoming completely dependent on someone else for his basic needs rob him of what things he could still control in his life.
Taking Control of One’s Own Independence
It wasn’t until he was faced with moving into a nursing facility that he took control of his situation. Here are some of the changes he made in his life, and how they helped him to reclaim a bit of his independence.
- Meals on wheels – This program brings meals to the homes of people who are otherwise not able to provide for themselves. The volunteer who brings lunch to my uncle sits and talks with him for anywhere from 15 minutes to half an hour.
- Online shopping – After buying a laptop and learning how to use it, my uncle now does most of his shopping lines, from groceries to Christmas gifts! Because a lot of sites offer free shipping straight to his front door, he doesn’t have to worry about how to pick up packages from the post office.
- Adopt a grandparent– A group of teenagers from a local scouts program adopted grandparents last summer. The young man who chose my uncle has him outside in his backyard doing activities like bird watching and flying model airplanes.
When a Medical Condition Hinders Independence
According to the National Council on Aging (http://www.ncoa.org), over 90% of the elderly population has at least one chronic condition. More than 70% of these people have at least two! These conditions might include:
- Diabetes – A chronic illness that produces high levels of sugar in the blood, diabetes can hinder mobility because it causes painful swelling in the legs and feet, and sometimes it’s needed amputation.
- Arthritis – People who suffer from arthritis experience pain and swelling along major joints in their body including hands, feet, legs, hips, and shoulders, which makes it difficult for them to get around.
- Hypertension – This illness affects both internal organs and blood vessels. When your blood vessels cannot get enough oxygen to your blood, then it can impair mobility, especially in elderly people.
- Lung disease – For people with lung disorders, even the slightest activity can make it difficult to catch a breath. They could find themselves bound to a wheelchair or even bedridden due to their chronic illness.
- Heart disease – Heart disease, like chronic lung disorders, causes shortness of breath which can hinder mobility. People with heart disease have lives that are increasingly sedentary until little chance at mobility remains.
- Dementia – When it comes to dementia-related illness, like Alzheimer’s, impaired mobility is as much mental as it is physical. When someone suffering from dementia gets behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, they could become lost or have a serious accident.
These conditions not only compromise the quality of life of elderly people, but they also compromise the independence of such people. Along with the loss of independence is an extra financial burden to hire services or purchase tools to help them get around.
Mobility Scooters and Elderly Independence
Many elderly who find their independence compromised due to mobility impairment find assistance with a mobility scooter. You can find a mobility scooter buyers guide online that explains more about how the benefits these micro-vehicles provide for the elderly.
My uncle has a mobility scooter and it has helped him to reclaim some of his previously lost independence. For example, he can move through his house to grab a drink of water or take his medications, or even cruise around the block to visit his neighbors.