Living Independently – we’ve got this!

It’s a myth we often impose on ourselves – the notion we will inevitably have to consider residential care. While for some, this option is desirable or necessary, the number of older people living alone and independently continues to rise. That’s because age alone does not determine whether you need to live in a supported care environment. In fact, recent research puts the average age of care home residents at 85, which means a lot of seniors are managing ‘just fine thank you,’ in their own homes. So let’s take a look at what these independent householders have to say about their own situations.

Let’s be honest

Research shows, regardless of age, those who live alone are generally not as satisfied with their situation as those who have a partner. However, this doesn’t mean they are unhappy – far from it. Independent seniors report they actively compensate for  living alone by seeking out opportunities to engage with others. And when they do so by volunteering in their community, they feel worthwhile, valued, and appreciated.


Seniors living alone report they enjoy their situation because it gives them a high level of freedom. They are able to work to their own timetable, choose how to use their resources and savings, socialise with whom they choose, and go where they want, without having to consult another. They enjoy controlling their own lives.

I’ve got this!

Seniors who live alone report managing their life gives them a sense of success and pride. Whether it’s continuing to maintain a garden, drive a car, exercise daily, or attend to their own domestic chores, doing so enables them to feel ‘significant’. They identify as being ‘achievers’ and see themselves recognised as such by their community. They are also more likely to learn new skills, whether recreational, or those that help them with their daily life.


Whether it’s a leisure activity or part of the daily routine of personal care, cooking, and housekeeping, seniors who live alone find themselves growing more determined to maintain their quality of life. The self-esteem this brings helps with a sense of dignity and identity.

What we want more of

Like all groups in society, seniors have their own list of requests for the sort of help that would make independent living more achievable. Of particular concern, is education on the subject of financial abuse, and the need for financial institutions to step up to the mark when it comes to deterring digital and phone scammers.

Seniors living alone also want to see health professionals communicating more clearly with them through allocating sufficient time for consultations, listening to patient’s requests for clarifications, and by following up verbal with written advice.

Small household maintenance issues have been pinpointed by seniors, living alone, as an area where greater assistance is necessary. Small tasks such as changing a lightbulb or repairing the washer on a tap can make daily life difficult, yet employing a service person for the job can be costly.

Seniors in rural situations request greater assistance with transport. Current government travel assistance to hospitals cover only fuel costs, while older people in rural areas often also require a driver (or funding to help pay for one).

Given New Zealand currently has an ‘ageing in place’ policy (i.e. it encourages seniors to live independently if they wish to), seniors have every reason to debunk the myth retirement home living is inevitable. And by supporting organisations (such as Grey Power and Age Concern) which advocate for seniors, independent living becomes an option for even more of us.