November 1, 2010


For years the most well-known application of the word ‘independence’ was the Declaration of Independence, which announced that the 13 American states were no longer a part of Great Britain. In this political context, the meaning of the word was fairly clear.

As teenagers we all travelled along the road to independence, not necessarily using that specific label, but very clearly we wanted to be able to make our own decisions and choose our destiny ‘independent’ of the rules of the parents we had grown up with.

Today, as soon as you mention ‘seniors’ the term ‘independence’ is not far behind. Countless marketing campaigns promise to help seniors maintain their independence. Symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression in seniors are attributed to their loss of independence. Today we talk more about loss of independence than about gaining independence.

This has made me wonder what independence really means. So I asked my 22 year old niece if she was independent. She said yes. And then we started to talk about it. Are any of us really totally independent? I’m almost 60 and I still depend on others for some things that are really important to me. I can make my own decisions, but often choose to do so only after I have consulted with and allowed myself to be influenced by family and friends.

For me independence means that no one controls me, or has ‘ultimate power’ over me. But independence does not necessarily mean that I don’t need any help, or that I don’t rely on others for help. Where the line gets drawn in practical terms between those two statements is a very individual thing. Based on our clients I can see that some people feel a loss of independence as soon as they need help with almost anything, and others manage to maintain an aura of independence long after they require more help.

My conclusion is that we would do well to talk about this a lot more when we are in our “middle years”. We spend a lot of time preparing our children for ‘independence’. Shouldn’t we spend at least as much time preparing for a potential loss of ‘independence’.

What are your thoughts?

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