February is known as the month to celebrate Valentine’s Day and commemorate Black History Month, but what you might not know is February is also designated as National Senior Independence Month; the perfect time for Osceola seniors to celebrate their independence while taking steps to maintain that autonomy.

According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, the term “independence” constitutes the state of “wanting or being able to do things for yourself and make your own decisions, without help or influence from other people.” As our friends and family age, it is normally our goal (and theirs) to stay selfreliant if possible. With that stated, it is always important we be “dependable for them when needed,” while also encouraging them to depend on themselves as much as possible. Essentially a balancing act for both parties, the party who needs the support and the party who gives the support.

Living a self-sufficient lifestyle is important, no matter the age. At the Osceola Council on Aging, one of our many goals is to support seniors in the Osceola community maintain their independence through housing, nutrition, residential needs and reinforcement programs such as transportation, utility services, and rental assistance. Additionally, we have created recreational programs and leisure initiatives so seniors can experience positive social encounters such as congregate dining, adult day health center, and hobby related events for interaction and creative thinking. Along those same lines, Health GK, an educational website lists several Senior support tips to help reinforce their independence.

Support their social lives

This can be done by helping our senior parents, friends and loved ones facilitate regular social activities.

Active participation in groups such as charities and volunteering will make them feel needed. Additional thoughts are visiting the library for learning and entertainment. The council transports most of our clients to and from our congregate dining sites; transportation includes weekly shopping trips offered in our housing complexes with outings to celebrate local arts and theatre productions. Our Meals on Wheels program can also provide both clients and volunteers with opportunities for socialization and philanthropic fulfillment while giving back to the community.

Keep their brain busy

Alternatively, another way to ensure seniors remain independent involves keeping their brains busy. Encourage activities like playing cards, doing crosswords, or completing complicated puzzles. The council’s Adult Day Health Center and Dining Club sites offer a variety of games (bingo, board, and card games), arts, crafts and therapeutic activities.

Support regular exercise

A large part of our seniors’ journey toward supporting independence is by ensuring they exercise regularly. Staying active is a significant boost in preventing muscle atrophy. Exercising does not mean going to the gym daily. Exercise can include planting flowers in the backyard or simply walking around the block. Further, the council has several gardening centers for seniors to enjoy at both Adult Day Care locations and senior housing complexes. This activity enables seniors to gain needed exercise, vitamin D and partake in the fruits of their labors, which makes them happy. The council also offers a variety of physical therapy opportunities through the Adult Day Health Center, Health Clinic and the senior exercise program such as Silver Sneakers.

Reduce risks inside their home

Finally, you can help them stay independent by ensuring they are safe at home by decreasing the chance of unnecessary accidents. One way is to help declutter to decrease the risk of trips and falls. Think about rearranging furniture to support their mobility with ease. Eliminate tight spaces and tripping hazards. The council also offers a Chore program, an initiative to help check for any potential safety hazards to enable a safer environment. We also support clients living at home with specialized medical equipment and supplies to enhance their safety and comfort at home.

General safety maintenance

Safety maintenance is always a good idea like having banisters on outside stairs and railings on decks checked. Place lights in dark hallways and closets with motionsensor lights to prevent falls. Installing safety bars in the bathroom, hallways and slippery surfaces is also a great idea. The council’s Home and Chore Services provide installation of safety equipment and has constructed hundreds of wheelchair ramps for disabled residents over the years.

Additional ideas from seniorlifestyle.com include keeping necessary items like cell phones close at hand and readily accessible is vital in the event of an emergency. Cleaning can also be an issue with seniors. Dust and moisture can complicate health issues. A senior home which is clean will support their overall health.

Finally, while computers may be intimidating, communication technology can help them stay in touch. Help them adopt new technology. They will enjoy seeing grandchildren on screen, but it is also important to set up simple apps which can make calling easy.

Finally, call and visit often. Seniors who are active are healthier, so develop a dependable routine of contact; stop by in the mornings or call after dinner. If they no longer drive, make sure to offer transportation for needed trips and activities. It is time to give back to those who helped set us up for success. Allow this month to serve as a reminder to help your seniors remain independent for as long as possible


To see more guest columns by Wendy, go to https://osceolagenerations.org/councils-corner/
Published Wednesday, February 3, 2021