National Senior Independence Month is a time to celebrate our retirement years and learn ways to make the most of them. Science and medicine have added more years to our life, but how can we add more “life” to our years? Growing older is not just about loss and decline…it can mean new opportunities and adventures. We all want to age gracefully and maintain our independence. But what is the secret to positive aging and satisfaction in this stage of life?
A growing number of Americans are aging with disabilities which threaten their independence. According to the 2010 Census, almost 50 percent of respondents over age 64 reported some level of disability. Specifically, the prevalence of vision loss is growing dramatically and increases with age. Vision impairment can significantly impact your ability to remain independent, productive, creative, and engaged in your later years. But this impact can be mitigated by taking steps to meet the challenges of aging with vision loss.
Suggestions to Help You Negotiate Aging with Vision Loss
- Seek services for the visually impaired. There are low vision clinics and vision rehabilitation agencies in every state. If your vision loss is impacting your activities of daily living such as reading, writing, mobility, cooking and taking your medications, then it may be time to get help. You can learn new ways to use your remaining vision and preserve your independence. Many states have federal funds to serve adults aged 55 and older who are experiencing vision impairment. You may qualify for services at no cost. Use VisionAware’s directory of services to find help in your area.
- Stay physically active. Find safe and adapted ways to exercise for at least 30 minutes each day. Walking is beneficial but may be difficult with vision loss. Consider asking a family member or friend to be your walking partner. Taking Orientation and Mobility training and learning to use a white cane may enable you to walk independently and safely. Tai Chi and yoga are gentle ways to strengthen muscles and improve balance. Check with your insurance to see if they offer a free gym membership program such as “Silver Sneakers” for seniors. Exercise will keep your brain and body in shape.
- Nurture your creative self. Now that you have more leisure time, it is important to learn to use it creatively. Creative expression fosters personal, social, and spiritual growth. This type of self-expression, risk-taking, and continued learning has many benefits to the mind, body and spirit. Explore new activities like painting, creative writing, or dancing. Many hobbies can be adapted for vision loss with the help of a vision rehabilitation therapist. Albert Einstein said, “Creativity is intelligence having fun.” So have fun discovering your hidden talents.
- Avoid isolation and loneliness. Often in retirement, we must work to maintain lifelong friendships. We will have opportunities to build new relationships and connections as well. It is a special time to nurture your relationships with your partner, spouse and adult children. Reaching out to young people can be especially rewarding in this stage in life. It is important to establish a support network among family, neighbors, friends and social services. Companionship and community engagement will keep you healthy emotionally and cognitively. Find ways to socialize through clubs, senior centers, or church activities. Call your local senior center or Area Agency on Aging to learn about transportation and other services for seniors.
Be sure to read Part Two with three more suggestions!