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How to help seniors age independently

Published On: Feb 19 2013 08:49:40 AM CST
Elderly man with son

iStock / lisafx

(NewsUSA) - Ask most seniors if they want to age independently in their own homes, and they likely will say yes. Surveys show 95 percent of people over the age of 75 desire to age in place, and about a quarter of seniors live alone.

These numbers are just the beginning. Baby Boomers are now turning 65 at a rate of about 8,000 a day, according to AARP. But what if you're the adult child of one of those independent-minded seniors? What if, like Alison Jacobson, whose SafetyMom.com blog has a loyal following, you find yourself frequently worrying about your parents' well-being?

"While aging-in-place is the goal for most seniors, how do you, as the adult child, ensure sure they're safe?" she asks.

Here are some tips for dealing with the situation:

* Preventing falls. Falls are a leading cause of injury and death for seniors. Like the worry Jacobson describes, a new survey by market researchers Toluna found that a far greater number of caregivers were concerned about seniors being injured than seniors themselves were (76.1 percent vs. 33 percent). One simple first step is to remove all scatter rugs and make sure electric cords don't extend into high-traffic areas.

* Upgrading lights. While seniors sometimes may be reluctant to admit it, vision diminishes with age. So, brighten lights in kitchen work areas to reduce the risk of burns and cuts.

* Tech fix. The latest technology is the answer to substantial research highlighting the importance of staying connected for both seniors and caregivers. Harvard University researchers found that the odds of mental decline doubled for seniors with no social ties, for example, while Toluna's survey looked at the emotional toll on those trying to help loved ones age in place.

"For caregivers, ease of communication with the seniors they love relieves stress, reduces guilt and builds rich relationships," says expert on successful aging Adriane Berg.

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