With the community research complete, the next step for the Aging with Dignity and Independence initiative is to share the fruits of the research, the six big themes that surfaced after examining the local lived-experiences of more than 500 older adults in Sarasota County.
The six themes that impact the experience of aging with dignity and independence are distinctly separate, and at the same time, bump up to one another and overlap at times. They are:
v Meaningful Involvement
v Respect & Social Inclusion
v Communication & Information
v Health & Well-being
v Aging in Place
v Transportation & Mobility
As this information is shared with the community, I could see that individuals, businesses and organizations might reflect on what was learned and think about what it means for their own circles of connection and influence. How best to shift one’s own behaviors, procedures, programs or policies? These are issues that demand our attention and they present opportunities for action. I like to think of it as community wisdom inspiring community action.
Over the next few weeks I will share a glimpse of each theme and ways the community may choose to make a difference. Community presentations will be made throughout January, as a way to spark the thinking in our community.
As part of the research, older adults were asked what both dignity and independence meant to them in the context of growing older. Dignity was described as self reliance and self direction, sense of pride and self-worth, respect and acceptance by self and others, and making decisions through the end of life.
“Dignity means being treated as the competent, intelligent person I am. It means having someone ask what would I like rather than tell me what I need. It means having choices and having a voice.”
Independence was described as self reliance for transportation and maintaining one’s own house, performing personal care activities, financial independence, making one’s own decisions for living arrangements, activities and social life, and doing what matters to them.
“Independence means the ability to take part in any and all aspects of one’s community.”
I asked my daughter – a senior in high school, to describe what dignity and independence meant to her.
She defined dignity as self respect and self worth and acting honestly. She said “I am respected more when I act honestly.” Independence was about knowing she could do it alone if she wanted to, but not necessarily having to do it alone. And she closed with, “Mom, I never think about these concepts.”
So my teenager doesn’t think about these things, and probably with good reason. They are just part of her experience on most days. And her words weren’t much different from those of the older adults. Dignity and independence are important as part of our lived experience, no matter what our age.
How do we make sure that happens for all older adults in our community?
Read the Aging with Dignity & Independence summary report, Actionable Themes: Issues and Opportunities