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What does ‘independence’ mean to older people?

What does ‘independence’ mean to older people?

Independence is a simple concept. At its most basic level, it means having full autonomy over one’s own life. However, the challenges posed by the ageing process can challenge this definition, especially when it is clear that assistance is needed to perform daily tasks.

Throughout our adult lives, most of us are able to determine our own actions and decisions, but as we reach our older years, the scope of our independence can diminish as a result of changing mobility or health. However, with the right care package in place, your loved one can enjoy as much independence as possible whilst also receiving the support they need.

How to nurture older people’s sense of independence

A person’s desire to remain independent is not always reflected in their capabilities, and this conflict can become increasingly pronounced as time goes by.

Giving your loved one as much input as possible in the decisions that affect them can benefit them emotionally and physically, as well as giving them a higher quality of life.

Here are some ways you can help your loved one feel more independent:


At the heart of independence is the ability to make decisions for yourself. Older people are accustomed to deciding their own actions, and removing this sense of self-determination can lead to feelings of denial and depression.

Here are some key factors to consider when it comes to decision-making:

  • Don’t assume that a person is unable to make a decision for themselves
  • Encourage them to make healthy life choices by presenting them with relevant information and asking their opinion on major decisions, especially those that concern them
  • Choice and control can help older people maintain their existing skills


To facilitate the decision-making process, you will need to take steps to empower your loved one. This will require you to:

  • Dedicate enough time for them to make a decision, and for the choice to be facilitated
  • Give them an active role in arranging engaging activities
  • Know how to facilitate a decision in a safe and appropriate manner
  • Reassure them that the choice is theirs to make

In practice

When a person’s ability changes, it’s easy to overlook some of the choices that feed into their sense of independence. These are some of the ways you can make sure you’re promoting independence in practice:

  • Encourage them to do as much as they are able. If they can no longer perform a whole task, let them to do what they can before assisting with what’s left
  • Involve them in everyday decisions, like choosing their own meals or social activities
  • Give them as much agency as possible in larger decisions, such as care options or adaptations to the home
  • Familiarise yourself with their life story, so that you can help them draw on their past experiences to inform current choices

97% of people would prefer to live the rest of their lives in their own homes, rather than move into residential care. If this is what your loved one decides they want, live-in care will enable them to stay in the familiar and welcoming environment of their own home, supported by a team of two carers who are present 24/7.

If you would like to explore how live-in care can help your loved one safely maintain maximum independence in their later years, please feel welcome to contact The Good Care Group for an exploratory discussion.

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