Prolonging and Encouraging Independence in Aging Family Members

Independence. As a child we are encouraged; pushed and prodded, to achieve it.  Little by little we step toward independence.  We learn to tie our shoes,  ride a bike, take the bus to school, venture out to the mall with friends, learn to drive and soon we are off to college (if we are lucky).  We marry and our children grow up and are on their own (again, if we are lucky). Then somewhere along the aging process we begin to lose our independence as our adult children and society begin to confiscate our driving privileges, aches and pains limit our activity, mowing the lawn is seen as dangerous, etc. etc. etc.

As adult children we have to admit we recognize our role in the later.  We convince ourselves this is care and that we are only looking out for our parent’s best interests.  All the while we are raising, caring for, our children to be independent.  An interesting dichotomy.

So what is care?  In the context I am speaking of, Merriam Webster identifies care as; concern or tending to somebody or something.  Nothing about independence and yet, in the positive context of raising our children, teaching independence is a large part of the care we provide.  Fast forward to the senior years and the experience is just the opposite; in the interest of safety, independence declines.

As a parent and an adult child, I am no longer teaching independence.  Rather, my role has transitioned to encouraging independence.  Both, for my children and my parents.   I may not be able to return my parent’s to their driving days but I certainly can and will continue to encourage them to be independent and engage in life to their fullest abilities.

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