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The Importance of Our Autonomy

Volunteering with various organizations to flame the social change movement, Joyce Balaz has been advocating for persons living with disabilities to have equitable access to the supports necessary to live an everyday ordinary life in the community. Joyce holds leadership roles in the Individualized Funding Coalition for Ontario, Ontario Independent Facilitation Network, Family Network Thames Valley and Family Alliance Ontario.

For me, the most important aspect of aging in place is that of maintaining autonomy over one’s life. Having choice and control!

Why is this so important?

Having choice and control is what gives a person ownership over their lives. Too often when people access services, that ownership is lost. It becomes about the service agency schedule, staffing capacity, and rules and regulations among other things. These are all implemented to ensure the system runs smoothly and stops being about what the person actually needs or wants to allow them to continue to live a contributing life of their choosing.

What the pandemic has so clearly illustrated is that people in congregate settings were denied their rights to do as they wished. They were denied the right to be with their loved ones. They were denied the right to leave their so called “homes”. They were denied the right to make decisions about their own lives. Some were even denied access to medical care, which for some resulted in untimely death.

In contrast, people who remained in their homes maintained their freedom to decide how they responded to the threat of COVID-19. They could choose to self-isolate, they could choose not to go shopping, they could choose who came into their home, and they could choose to accept the risk that came with a hug.

When one can age in place, that place is one’s home. And like the old adage “a man’s home is his castle”, every person should rule as a king in their castle. As ruler, a person has the ultimate control.