16 May 10 Tips for Seniors to Successfully Age Solo
Millions of Americans are becoming older adults. The popularity of, and number of people now choosing to live and age alone is also increasing. Seniors can make aging solo successful by following our guidance here.
More and more Americans are choosing an independent lifestyle. A large and increasing number of adults live without a partner or spouse. As a result, aging solo is on the rise in America. In 2016, about 35.4 million Americans lived alone. That equates to more than 20 percent of adults 65 and older aging independently or those that anticipate doing so in the future.
Making the choice to live alone
Many individuals aging solo embrace this independent lifestyle. Older adults make a conscious choice to live alone more than you might think. They enjoy the freedom that stems from living alone. However, others may be fearful about the future or be worried about social isolation and loneliness.
Misconceptions of aging solo
Some people may have certain stereotypes or ideas about what it means to live alone as an older adult that may perpetuate feelings of fear. These include:
Older adults living alone are isolated, lonely, or unhappy.
Senior isolation is a real concern. The population is at greater risk than the general population of being socially isolated and disconnected from the outside world. However, that’s far from the reality for many elders on their own. Older adults living solo are often more likely to socialize with neighbors, friends, and be involved in community activities than their married peers.
People aging alone are at greater health risk or particularly vulnerable if they experience health concerns or cognitive decline.
If a senior has limited social and family support, there is the potential for them to struggle in cases of decline or disease. However, many single people do, in fact, have strong social networks. In addition, many older adults will need to access formal care and support services at some point. This is true regardless of relationship or living status for the elder population. With these cases, proper planning and foresight can help navigate any needs that may arise.
The majority of individuals that live alone are older adults.
Often, people think of seniors being the greatest number of people living alone. Perhaps this is because they may be more likely to be widowed or otherwise have an inability to reside with others, including family. However, the greatest number of people living alone are actually much younger, those aged 35 to 64 years old.
10 tips to ensure success while aging solo
Regardless of your position on aging alone, there are some steps you should take to adequately prepare for this transition. By taking action in advance, you can ensure a positive and successful life well into your golden years. Consider the recommended ideas below to make sure that your future of aging solo can be successful and fulfilling.
Plan, and plan early
There may come a time when you can no longer take care of yourself on your own. Research different long term potential options first. Consider what is ideal for you, and think about options for if the future doesn’t play out the way you hoped. This could include professional caregivers and assisted living facilities in your community. Plus, plan on how you may pay for your future care needs. If you find that there may be a future need for long-term care, look into alternative options for care coverage like long-term care insurance. If you start planning in advance, you can avoid common reasons for care insurance denials as well. Look into other programs that might provide coverage as well, like veterans benefits or the state’s Medicaid program.
Build a community
Caring and meaningful relationships can make a world of difference in how connected and happy that a person feels. To avoid social isolation, find companions who can be with you and willing to help along your journey. There are plenty of options to help build a community of friends and connections, like senior centers which provide services including meal programs and activities for older adults to connect and socialize with each other.
Continue to reassess your network
As time goes by, people might move, pass away or get sick. Regularly reassess the health, physical, and mental abilities of your immediate network. This is particularly true if these people are the same age, or close to the same age as you. Plus, friendships and relationships might come and go over time, so it’s vital to be aware of whom you can rely on.
Consider a power of attorney or proxy
Think about who your most trusted friend and relatives are. It is important to consider who can properly make legal and life decisions on your behalf should you be unable to. If you identify someone, talk to them to see if they are comfortable making decisions on your behalf if you cannot. Make sure that person know your wishes and preferences if they’re going to help you in time of need. Put it in writing and formalize it legally.
Ensure your legal matters are in order
In addition to identifying a proxy, there are other legal considerations that come with age. Make sure you are legally protected as you get older. Get into place a formal will. Talk to an attorney about an estate plan and trust plus any advance directives. These tasks may be more time-consuming and require more consideration than you realize, so it’s important to not push it off. Regularly evaluate and update any such legal documents in place every few years. Chances are, things can and will change over time.
The simplest advice might also be the hardest to do regularly. Be sure to eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, and keep your mind and brain sharp. By doing so, it helps facilitate your ability to live independently plus can greatly increase your quality of life. If you live healthy and can keep your physical and cognitive function at a high level, it will mitigate the vast majority of concerns related to aging alone or just getting older in general.
Prepare your finances
Chances are, you probably imagine or hope that you remain in your home or another that allows you to be as independent as possible. If necessary, you’ve probably counted on hiring for at-home care should the need arise. Other ways people plan on keeping their independence is by having a safe and accessible home through proper home modifications. If you foresee the need for such services, make sure that you allocate for the expense of them. Properly prepare for installation or construction before your anticipated time of need. This can help prevent a lapse in meeting your needs or mitigate the potential that it requires to seek out assisted living or long-term care facilities.
Maybe you’ve evaluated your home and determined it might not be appropriate or the best option for aging in place. Perhaps it’s a larger family home and now your children have moved or maintenance needs are too intensive. There may be too many stairs to make it comfortable to easily move around. You may even just prefer to move to a walkable city center and enjoy local amenities or be car free.
Whatever the reason, if your home isn’t tailored for aging in place and independent living long term, you might need to find a place that will serve you better in the long run.
Have a formal support network
You may be in good health currently. However, a health crisis or long-term diagnosis like dementia can be a major challenge. In addition to having a strong network of informal support like friends or family, you can benefit from formal support. One example would be having the services of a care manager. A care manager can act as a quasi relative. They can aid you in finding ways to meet your health needs as you get older. Don’t stop there. Make sure you also have a network of medical and legal professionals advocating on your behalf that you can count on. This network may include those at local senior services agencies, caregivers, doctors, an elder law or estate attorney and trusted therapists.
Be empowered in being alone
Your outlook can be critical to your success. Remember, aging solo means that you’re in complete control of your destiny. You can be as neat or messy as you like. You decide your friends and their involvement in your life. Plus, you aren’t legally bound to anyone else. The moral of the story? Even if you end up living alone and it wasn’t an expected scenario, your outlook can make all the difference. By looking at it through a positive lens, you can frame your mind on the pros of living alone and maximize your ability to thrive.
Recent trends have resulted in an unprecedented movement of older adults aging alone. Part of this is a product of the wish to age in place and independently. Part of it is a subject of the ability to afford to remain at home alone. Additionally, having a wide range of health care services available at home makes living alone possible for those seniors who are managing one or more personal health issues. By following the tips to successful aging alone here, you can thrive and live happily whether your choice to age alone was by choice or you found yourself in the situation for another reason.
Preparing for future needs should start now to maximize your ability to stay in control for as long as possible. If or when you find yourself in a position that you need a little extra assistance, consider the role of home care in supportive and hands-on care services, right in your home. Chosen Family Home Care can assist with at-home support in Philadelphia and the surrounding areas of Pennsylvania through our tailored services and mission-driven support. Plus, follow all of our top senior resources on our insights page for great resources for seniors.