How to help your aging family members maintain their independence and autonomy


Caring and attending to the needs of your aging adults shows you love and appreciate them, but you run the risk of helping out a little too much at times. Your elderly may go through periods of grief each time they lose the ability to do certain things, and by over-helping, you’re unwittingly contributing to their sense of loss of independence. Everyone has the right to independence and autonomy, but for older people, the freedom they once enjoyed is often denied because they’re no longer able to make their own decisions. Everyone should have the chance to live with dignity, especially senior populations.

If your elderly family members need help, they’ll let you know. Until then, improve your powers of observation and ask your loved ones if they’re comfortable doing things on their own. Support their wishes and give them control over activities wherever possible, of course. Certain strategies can help ensure the independence and autonomy of aging adults, including but not limited to:

Help Them Socialize and Avoid Isolation

Older adults can benefit from active socialization as it improves their quality of life and prevents cognitive decline. Interacting with others, starting with the family, reduces the risk of being isolated, provides a sense of belonging, increases self-esteem, and helps the elders live life more purposefully. It can be challenging for older individuals to admit they’re lonely and want to make new connections, so you can help your loved ones by looking for signs of isolation, such as loss of appetite, lethargy, or loss of interest in activities they once liked. You could organize a low-key happy hour event with a cocktail or have a coffee morning with some treats.

Make It Easier for Them to Access All Areas of The Home

Perhaps your older relative has always liked gardening (plants and flowers), but it’s hard for them to get down on the ground. In that case, you can set up a simple potting bench so they have a work surface that’s easy on the back. There are many things you can do to encourage independent living in the elderly, such as installing a stairlift so they can move about in the home effortlessly without having to depend on another person. A stairlift is a safe way to remain independent, regardless of whether the mobility issue is temporary or permanent.

If someone in your home is living with a disability, changes may be necessary to make it accessible. Of course, it doesn’t have to be an expensive feat. If you want to install a stairlift to reduce the risk of slips, trips, and falls on the stairs, it can be a liberating investment. Look at the average stairlift prices and see for yourself. The final price you pay depends on the type of stairlift, its condition (new or used), and the options available. Having accessibility is paramount for the elderly, so take advantage of solutions like ramps, brighter lighting, and medical alert systems, to name a few.  

Keep Their Brain Busy

Cognitive impairment can come suddenly or gradually, and it can be temporary or permanent. As we age, there’s a change in the nerve cells, which can affect memory and thinking abilities, so keeping the mind sharp is of the essence. Eating a healthy diet, keeping physically fit, and doing mental exercise can help maintain the brain’s functions. You can help your elderly family members keep their brains healthy by encouraging them to learn new skills, playing brain games, or following their favorite sports teams. One of the goals of healthy aging is living independently, which involves maintaining bodily and mental health alone.

Run Errands That Can Be Difficult for Them

Many aging adults are reluctant to accept help even if they could use support, so help them become comfortable with accepting a helping hand. Running errands allows your loved ones to maintain their independence, keep on living in their homes, and avoid a care facility. Even small acts of kindness can have an incredible impact. The big lesson for you is that you must leave your older relatives to clue you in when they’re ready for help. Offer meaningful, real help without being pushy, nosy, or off-key. If there’s a situation that’s evidently dangerous, that’s a completely different story.

Running errands can be difficult at a certain age in terms of setting time aside or completing physical tasks. No matter how you look at it, the average adult has an easier time fulfilling some small business than the elderly person with aging-related challenges. Even if you enjoy helping others, you must be a well-organized person, as you’ll often be shopping. You can be of invaluable help, but it’s not always possible to be there. For example, doctor’s appointments typically take place during working hours, so balance caregiving with the demands of your career.

Help Them Get Physical Activity

Finally, yet importantly, ensure your elders maintain physical activity to prevent heart disease or diabetes. Individuals over the age of 65 require proper intense exercise to maintain independence, recover from illness, and reduce the risk of disease. Make it fun for your loved ones to stay physically active by going outside for a walk or playing games. You want your aging adults to be physically fit, but ensure they take some days off so they can restore their energy levels and be prepared for the next workout session. During rest, the tissue heals and grows, resulting in stronger muscles.


Independence means having full autonomy over one’s life, but the challenges brought about by aging make it difficult, if not impossible, to perform daily tasks. Caring for and offering meaningful support to aging family members can be rewarding, just be careful not to push them into things they don’t feel comfortable doing. Small things go a long way, so offer to do things with them, not for them. Give your loved ones as much input and control over their lives and decisions as possible. Don’t assume a person isn’t able to make decisions for themselves.

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