Solo Aging Concerns

Senior woman sitting in her armchair with her pet cat. She is enjoying the company

Aging alone is a reality for a significant portion of the older population, with unique benefits and challenges that can impact one’s emotional, mental, and physical wellbeing. While living alone offers independence and the freedom to pursue one’s own lifestyle, it can also lead to feelings of loneliness, isolation, and increased vulnerability to health issues.

We have more older adults becoming solo agers for several reasons:

  1. People are living longer. The Center for Disease Control estimates that the current life expectancy in the United States is 77 years. That’s a big improvement over the last century.
  2. Families are smaller. The Baby Boomers didn’t have as many children as their parents, and changes in reproductive choices have allowed people to better plan the size of their families. According to the Census Bureau, about 27% of older adults who live alone have no children.
  3. More people are divorced or never married, leaving fewer people to be spousal caregivers. Spouses are often the first person to step into the caregiving role.

No matter what circumstances led to their solo aging path, each person aging alone would benefit by making a plan. By starting a solo aging plan as early as possible, older adults will give themselves the most options for living life independently in the way they choose.

So what should someone planning on solo aging include in their plan? If we are lucky enough to get older, it’s still hard to know the exact nature of our healthcare and housing needs 10 or 20 years into the future. That’s why it’s best to cover all your bases when consider your future needs. The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s Partnership in Aging office urges solo agers to be the “CEO” of their own aging process by putting together a team of trusted advisors to guide and advise. These advisors can include:

  • Your local Area Agency on Aging. Contacting this local resource is a great first step, as they will have information on senior housing options, as well as a list of professional in your area.
  • An elder law attorney. Elder law attorneys can help older adults understand their financial options, and draft important documents like an estate plan or healthcare power of attorney.
  • Your social network. Solo aging doesn’t need to mean isolation. It’s likely that someone else is your life is considering their options for solo aging, so start talking and sharing resources.
  • An Aging Life Care Manager. Will you need home health care? Do you think you’ll need to soon enroll in Medicare, or Medicaid for long-term care? An Aging Life Care Manager can help you understand your care options and navigate decisions you may not even know you need to make.
  • Your neighbors or spiritual community. Now is not the time for self-isolation. Reach out to your nearby networks to see if someone can check in on you, offer companionship, or simply understand that you are alone in your home. Perhaps you can build some reciprocity with another nearby solo ager.

Aging alone doesn’t have to mean being lonely. With the right resources and a proactive approach to seeking out connections, older adults can enjoy a fulfilling and socially rich life, even if they live alone. The key is to explore various options, remain open to new experiences, and take steps to engage with the broader community actively.

Source: IlluminAge AgeWise

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