Senior Moments from H.O.M.E.

What does "independence" mean?

Posted by Amber Martin on Oct 15, 2018 4:16:55 PM

Central to H.O.M.E.'s mission is to help low-income seniors maintain their independence. We do that by providing housing and housing support services. Often, we are faced with the question: "If you are 'helping' someone, doesn't that mean that they aren't 'independent?'"

It's a fair question. And the answer is actually another question: "Well, how do you define independence?"

senior_smile-652816-editedA WTTW article we recently read explored why older adults refuse in-home help. The reasons that seniors in one Northwestern research study gave were: 

  • Fear of loss of ability
  • Feeling burdensome to family or caregivers
  • Loss of control
  • Distrust of home-based helpers

The researcher who conducted the study, Dr. Lee Lindquist, pointed out that some seniors thought that asking for help would lead to living in a nursing home, but Lindquist said that’s not the case.

“It’s actually the reverse,” she said. “You’re less likely to be in a place where you need nursing home support, if you’re willing to accept home-based help.”

That gets at the meat of the question of what independence means. 

intergenerational_nsh_senior_resident_assistantDoes being independent mean still living in the house where you raised your children? Or does it mean living in a community where you've lived for the past 50 years, though in a setting where you have access to assistance if you need it?

Or maybe it means being able to go grocery shopping to choose your own food? Or, that you can go to your place of worship every week?

Does it mean cleaning your house from floor to ceiling on your own? Or, making sure your laundry is done the way you like it?

Or does it simply mean not living in a place that feels institutional, like a nursing home? 

The answer to that question is different for different people. One senior in Dr. Lindquist's study had this to say about the idea of independence:

“I prefer interdependence because I think, from the time we’re born until the time we die, everybody gives something."

Tempelle_lesley_intergenerational_zoo_outingGenerations United echos this position when they advocate for public policy that not only benefits older adults, but for people of all ages. After all, food, shelter, and healthcare are essentials for everyone. 

Another central part of H.O.M.E.'s mission is helping seniors remain part of their community. That's an important part of the equation. 

Not only are seniors who are engaged with the community more likely to be healthier and report having a greater quality of life, but a community with engaged seniors is more vibrant as well. 

Older adults have a lot to offer a community.

Their experience, skills, and perspectives influence the community. Seniors are an important part of the labor market (as paid workers and volunteers); they are consumers; and they provide childcare.  

On a personal level, they have a lot to teach and to share. They are friends, family, and colleagues. 

In H.O.M.E.'s view, independence and community, then, go hand in hand. By giving seniors access to safe, affordable housing and healthy food, they can maintain their own personal level of independence and remain engaged in their community for as long as possible. 

You can be a part of H.O.M.E.'s mission with a gift today.

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Topics: community, senior independence, aging in community, senior isolation, senior housing, affordable housing