While we grow up, we crave independence. And for many people, outside of childhood, there will never be a time when they have to consider what it means to be dependent again. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for everyone… 

In this blog, we take a look at independence and what it means to enjoy independent living.

What Is Independent Living?

Independent living is the ability to live your life without assistance from others, and for many elderly and disabled people, it’s in short supply.

Having independence means going about your days with a sense of autonomy and control, and feeling this way is vital for mental health as well as retaining physical ability. 

Independent living as a philosophy provides equal opportunity and freedom to people living with disability. The National Centre for Independent Living in the UK defines it as a choice:

“Independent living for disabled people means being able to live in the way you choose, with people you choose. It means having choices about who helps you and the ways they help. It is not necessarily about doing things for yourself, it is about having control over your day-to-day life.” (3).

An Independent Life

Disabled people live in a world that hasn’t been designed to suit them, and the onus of adapting to their surroundings is often put on to the person trying to fit in. 

The concept of independent living needs society and the wider world to take more responsibility. These days businesses and organisations are motivated to make fundamental changes to culture and environments so that the requirements of disabled people are met. But independent living is more than just adding wheelchair ramps, accessible desks and raised-height toilets to workspaces. It’s about overhauling working practices that don’t suit some individuals, recognising unconscious bias and making everywhere a safe place for everyone.

The rate of change is positive, but there is still work to be done. 

Home Is A Sanctuary

While society is working on creating an environment that suits everyone, a person’s home should be a place they can retreat to and feel confident and comfortable.

But this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Britain’s homes aren’t disability-friendly as standard.

There is a severe lack of accessible housing in the UK. A whopping 93% of the rental properties in this country aren’t fit for disabled access, which means disabled people are severely disadvantaged when it comes to finding accommodation. 

Now, in a rented home, landlords have a legal duty to respond to disabled tenants requesting ‘reasonable adjustments’ be made to a property. These could be changes like a Braille copy of a tenancy agreement or requests for minor adaptations to be made, such as the addition of grab rails, door entry systems and different taps. 

And for homeowners, while funding is available, it’s difficult to get. Going through the process of applying for funding, as well as managing what needs to be adapted, can be extremely stressful for someone with a disability and their loved ones.

But, when a home is suitably adapted, it’s a space where a person’s disability isn’t a barrier or something they have to think about. 

There is a whole world of home adaptations out there, and a combination of many solutions can be used to create a safe home that can be confidently navigated.

The Importance Of Independent Living

Living without the need for assistance is something most people take for granted. But to truly create an equal society, everyone must have that same privilege. 

A common misconception surrounding independent living is that it means to live alone. In reality, it simply means that a person has everything they need – the facilities and allowances – to be able to manage their life and tasks with dignity. 

Some individuals will still require support for some aspects, but the difference is that they have a choice; provision is made to give as much independence as possible, and we listen to the voices of the people that know their limitations so well.

The Benefits Of Independent Living

There are many tangible benefits to creating an environment that enables someone to live independently. These include;

Enhanced Sense Of Self

A person is more than a single feature. However, for disabled people, their disability is often what is used to identify them. Without meaning to cause harm, those around them might refer to them as ‘the girl in a wheelchair’ or ‘the blind lady’; completely removing their individuality and their identity. 

And, unfortunately, needing to rely on outside help can emphasise this feeling of a disability being all-encompassing.

Pit this against working towards independent living, where confidence grows to navigate the world around you. Where you are given more control over what you do and how you do things, with less input from others who don’t live in your body. Independent living promotes a greater, more meaningful and more true sense of self.  

Access To Full-World Experience

For those disabled people who want to and can move out of the family home, independent living gives them the same opportunities as others. 

The acquisition and improvement of life skills like learning to cook, clean and care for a home, as well as managing money and the freedom of commanding your own personal space, are enjoyable experiences that can give a true sense of accomplishment.

Life Fulfillment

Like everyone, elderly and disabled individuals have desires and yearnings. They want to experience life, not let it pass them by just because it’s assumed assistance is required. 

By having more independence, people are better equipped to fulfill their wants and needs and empowered to take the initiative in directing their own lives. 

Independent Living Is A Human Right

A strong sense of autonomy and control over our lives and bodies is a given for most people. Why should it be any different for those with disabilities or who have aged?

We must do all we can to promote and support an individual’s right to live independently. Only together can we rework the world into a truly accessible space that is equal to all.

If you need help understanding how to make a home suitable for independent living, John Ford Group has decades of experience. Get in touch to speak to us about any circumstances.