Independence and choice. Themes as central to the American way as the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The ability to make decisions and have control over one’s own life is a universal theme. Nearly 90 percent of seniors say they want to continue living in their own homes as they age. Whether their preference is to live in their own home, with family or friends, in an assisted living facility or in another congregate care setting, I’ve yet to meet someone who does not want to be able to make their own decisions about how and where they will live as they age. However, when issues of physical or cognitive decline arise, who gets to make those choices? Who gets to decide who lives independently and who does not?

Christine Vanlandingham is CEO of Region IV Area Agency on Aging in Southwest Michigan. Questions on age or independence services? Call the Info-Line for Aging & Disability at 800-654-2810 or visit areaagencyonaging.org. The Generations column appears each weekend in The Herald-Palladium.