Navigating the aging process is difficult for anyone, but retirement for singles proves especially challenging. Whereas couples have each other to lean on and parents can turn to their adult children for assistance with care or to serve as powers of attorney, aging alone may present some risks.
More and more older Americans are unmarried and don’t have children. By 2030, approximately 16% of women between the ages of 80 and 84 will be childless, compared with about 12% in 2010, according to a 2013 AARP report.
While many older singles try to control the risks of aging alone, some don’t fare as well. In fact, a 2016 study suggests that unmarried, childless older adults are at higher risk for medical problems, cognitive decline and premature death than those who have children.
“People who are aging alone need to make plans when they are independent and functional,” said Dr. Maria Torroella Carney, chief of geriatric and palliative medicine at the Northwell Health System on Long Island and lead author of the 2016 study. “They need to learn about the resources in the community and the appropriate time to start using them.”
So how can single seniors plan for care without adult children? Consider the following tips.
Explore Community Resources.
Older adults can take advantage of the various resources available to them right in their communities. This may involve procuring home-based products such as meal delivery services or doctors who make house calls or visiting senior centers in the area. Certain organizations even organize volunteers to help seniors who live on their own, providing rides to medical appointments, computer support and home repairs.
Consult the Professionals.
Take the initiative of consulting professionals prior to medical emergencies or other situations. This ensures that childless seniors maintain control over their futures. An elder law lawyer will draw up any documents necessary in case of incapacitation. A financial advisor will oversee any money items that need to get in order. And a geriatric care manager will coordinate care and be on call as health deteriorates, too.
Expand Social Networks.
The key to aging alone is to never truly be alone. This may mean making the move from a secluded rural or suburban neighborhood to an apartment downtown, or even to a senior living community, to be around more people, or maintaining relationships with family, friends and acquaintances who live nearby. It also requires establishing new connections, whether that’s through social media or area meetups for local seniors.
No plan is foolproof, of course. But having a plan in place will most certainly alleviate concerns when it comes to retirement for singles. It can also prevent some serious medical issues down the road.