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In her latest blog, community connector, Laura Moroney encourages us all to think about what we can do to help the older people in our communities to keep their independence.

Imagine having to struggle to prove that you can continue living in your own home? Many of us are possibly living life exactly how we choose; but picture having to face the reality that a care home may be on the cards soon.

Think about your home’s individual smell, or the warm inviting aroma of your favourite dinner cooking. Close your eyes and think about the sounds in your home, the TV and radio playing what you choose. Think about going off to bed at your leisure and the nights when you decide to stay up later with wine and a movie.

Imagine now the unfamiliar smells and noises of a place that you don’t want to be. Think about how it might make you feel to watch a TV programme or listen to music that you dislike because everyone else in the room watches or listens to it. How about bedtime? Going to bed at hours that suit others instead of you. Think about meals that are cooked when someone else says, and food that you didn’t feel like eating that evening. Imagine living your life like this – how does it make you feel to think that this could be your reality?

Fighting for independence

Many older people are feeling this way every day. Living in fear of losing independence and choice in many aspects of their lives. Take the time today to think about older people alone in their homes right now. Is there anything you can do to assist and help them to keep their independence? Even just picking up milk for them or handing them a plate of last night’s casserole that you saved for them could help.

John* is 91 years old. He has the most handsome, cheeky smile, yet an unbelievable poignancy behind his eyes. When I visit he will always caringly and selflessly ask how I am getting on before he tells me how unwell he feels and how lonely he is.

On a recent visit to John, I noticed that a chair had been set in front of him, so I asked: “Did you have a visitor today?”

“There was someone here to fill in paperwork so that they can take some of my pension away.” He replied calmly, before telling me that to move closer to his family, to live in a supported unit he had to sell his house. As he now has money from the sale of his house, he is not entitled to as much from his pension.

Not only has John had a considerable amount of his pension taken away from him, he also has the massive fear of losing his independence. As we chatted I look out to the kitchen and saw his tall, clinical looking high chair in place at the sink so that he can continue doing the dishes without falling over. What John said next is what led me to this write this.

He said: “I need so many things now to be able to stay in my own home. When I began to lose my faculties, everyone said I should go and live with them, that they’d take care of me, but I would not want that. I have always been an independent person. I ran my own business as a plumber for over 50 years.”

It’s obvious that John is desperate to keep his independence – and why shouldn’t he? Just because he might struggle to carry out some tasks without the help of aids and adaptations in his property, it doesn’t necessarily follow that his mind is ready to give up too.

In an ideal world nobody would feel like they needed to fight so hard for independence. But for some, the fear is closer to home than you might think. Think about relatives and neighbours who may be in this position - especially coming into the winter season. Maybe we can all do a little to make sure the battle is easier to fight against.

*Name changed

To read more from Laura, and to find out a little more about her, take a look here.

This blog post has been written as part of our #WinterWellbeing campaign which you can read about here.

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