facebook twitter youtube google plus linkedin

Aging Solo – 5 Important Things To Do Right Now

Aging Solo – 5 Important Things To Do Right Now

By Joy Loverde

If you are living solo, you are not alone. Millions of people currently fall into the category of separated, divorced, widowed, or never married. As life goes on, anyone can end up aging alone with no known family member or surrogate to act on our behalf. Plus, being a parent is no a guarantee that an adult child can or will step up to the plate when the time comes to manage our affairs.

Here are five suggestions to put in place right now. Your future self will thank you.

1. Get Real.

Be completely honest with yourself. Sixty is not the new thirty. Sixty is sixty. Every time you make light of or even deny aging, you create an alternate reality; and subsequently, you are forced to live a life in two different worlds: the one you are fantasizing about and the actual one in which you are living.

Acceptance of your own aging paves the way for breakthroughs of all kinds. Choosing to face the challenges of old age with self-respect and dignity offers opportunities to gain better control of the situation at hand.

Keep in mind this important reality: You are the one and only person you can forever count on.

2. Focus on The Big Picture.

No one ages in a void. When we least expect it, someone will likely land on our doorstep in need of care and attention. From grandparents and parents to spouses, partners, siblings, and beloved friends. In other words, the caregiving never ends. Picture this… generations of people reaching old age together. Aging has never been like this in the history of mankind.

Every day, people tell me how worried and afraid they are when they think about taking on family eldercare responsibilities and the possibility of aging alone. I tell them to stop letting fear get the best of them and start putting the effort in now to plan. Are you ready for what the upcoming years have in store?

When we plan, we have choices.” This is the promise of both of my books – The Complete Eldercare Planner and Who Will Take Care of Me When I’m Old? Whether you’re anticipating managing the care of others or wondering how to sustain a quality of life in old age, my books guide you every step of the way.

Checklists, worksheets, websites, and resources will help you put caregiving and aging solo into perspective including practical tips on talking about sensitive topics and managing complex relationships. You can prepare for what lies ahead.

3. Prepare for the Revolving Door of Relationships.

The headlines speak for themselves — The Shortage of Home Care Workers: Worse Than You Think (Forbes, April 18, 2018). With a professional caregiver shortage upon us, the Beatles song, “We’ll get by with a little help from our friends,” is never truer.

My number one tip is to cultivate friendships of people of all ages. In my book, I take this idea to another level. The chapter is titled, “Mealtime, Loneliness, and Thoughts to Chew On.” I invite you to join the “Let’s Eat Together” movement. Sharing meals is an easy and affordable way to continuously bring new people into your life.

There are many ways to meet new people, but one thing is for certain – you are going to have to talk to strangers. Here are a few tips to move the process along:

  • Get a job. Working outside the home is often a simple answer to interacting with more people on a daily basis.
  • Go to school. Research adult education programs at your local college, university, or public library. Studying together may cultivate friendships.
  • Teach a course. Are you an expert knitter? Can you instruct others how to ski, play mahjongg, or paint watercolors? Offer to teach skills and talents and in the end, you will attract like-minded people into your life.
  • Build in regularity. Create an activity that is always on your schedule, such as taking a class, participating in a book club or singing in a chorale group. Pray weekly with fellow church members or become a helper at your church or synagogue. Engage in sports that include a partner—such as golf, tennis, and bowling. Join a bridge club.
  • Ask to connect. People you already know may be willing to introduce you to their social network. Perhaps they know of others who share your interests and will also enjoy your company.

4. Where You Live Matters.

When asked where to live, most people say they prefer to remain in their own home for as long as possible. This living arrangement has a name – “aging in place.” Bringing products and services into the home is the cornerstone of how this works.

What is the allure of this long-term housing choice? Is it the comfort of living among cherished possessions? Is it knowing that groceries, medications, and transportation are available on demand? Is it peace of mind knowing that neighbors and favored retail establishments are nearby?

Let’s get real again. People tend to tune out the reality that aging in place can ultimately become a lifestyle destined for isolation, loneliness, depression, and solitary confinement. There are many causes of isolation. Retirement, death of a partner, the onset of a chronic illness, and lack of mobility and transportation are consequences of becoming separated from social contacts.

Solo agers especially are wise to prepare for any number of changes – financially, physically, emotionally, and otherwise. The most desirable long-term living arrangement offers community-like settings plus easy access to jobs, good schools, moderately priced housing, transportation, quality health care, fresh food, and recreational space.

The idea is to stay ahead of the challenges that may get in the way of remaining home. If a move is on the horizon, consider these housing options:

  • Shared Housing. Move in with strangers, parents or relatives, friends, siblings, or adult children. Or choose to remain in your own home and accept roommates.
  • Co-housing. The concept revolves around neighbors committing to being part of a community for everyone’s mutual benefit. Shared spaces typically feature common areas like a kitchen and recreational spaces where people gather for activities.
  • Active Adult Community. This setting attracts independent and healthy adults who are age 55 and older. Shared space may include fitness centers, walkable gardens, and cafés.
  • Village-to-Village. The “village” is not a place per se, but a not-for-profit membership program comprised of adults who live in their own homes and come together to help one another as they age in place.
  • Life Plan Community. This option promotes healthy living and priority access to a continuum of advanced health-care services.
  • Veteran Housing. The goal of this option is to ease the dilemma of chronic homelessness among American veterans. More than putting a roof over their head, housing initiatives offer a holistic approach that addresses the veteran’s physical and emotional needs.

Also Read: Where Will You Live In Retirement?

5. “Just Shoot Me” Is Not a Plan

If you’re like me, chances are you have experienced the deaths of people you love. This is a tough reality of living longer. Each death leaves its mark on our hearts and souls. Death happens, and when it does, it tends to jump-start our thinking about our own mortality.

Over the years, what have you personally experienced, witnessed, and observed related to dying and death? Were any of the deaths of people you know sudden and unexpected? Did they die slowly? Painfully? Were they alone at the time of death? Do you recall some of the things the dying said or did? Was death a taboo subject to be avoided at all costs?

Slowly but surely, the dying process of others influences your thinking and preferences about end of life. You know this to be true if you have ever mumbled to yourself or expressed this phrase to another person, “Just shoot me if things ever get this bad.

Whether you are terminally ill or perfectly healthy quality care at the end of life is something you can affect. Both of my books offer tips and resources on planning for quality care in the dying experience.

Start by exploring the difference between Palliative Care and Hospice. There are three important reasons why these subjects deserve more airtime. Be aware of the following:

1. You have a choice of hospice programs.

Hospice is likely to be the most important health-care decision you make. However, be aware of various discrepancies between hospice organizations. Even though your doctor or hospital attending physician may make a recommendation of one provider over another, you are wise
to do your own homework and shop around.

2. Despite palliative medicine, many people continue to suffer at the end of life.

All individuals, suffering or not, have the right to refuse life-sustaining medical treatment, including artificial nutrition and hydration (ways of giving liquid and nutrients through a tube). No matter the situation, limiting life-sustaining medical treatment and refusing to eat or drink must be discussed ahead of time and exercised through an advance directive or a surrogate decision maker. Do not put yourself in the position of being at the mercy of a healthcare practitioner who holds opposing views to what you want at the end of life.

3. There are other options besides hospice care.

People who are terminally ill sometimes choose not to enroll in hospice because they are “not ready.” People who do not choose hospice have four options: hospital care, but not in a hospice bed or unit; nursing home without hospice care; home care with support from a home-health agency; and home care with help from family or friends without support from hospice or a home-health agency.

You may also be compelled to review the information in my book about the “No One Dies Alone” initiatives that are now available to the dying. I have witnessed far too many deaths where people died without the care and compassion of others around them. With proper planning, you do not have to be one of them.

I wish you well.

Joy Loverde is the author of Who Will Take Care Of Me When I’m Old? and The Complete Eldercare Planner. She is a mature-market B2B consultant and product spokesperson. She is also a popular keynote speaker on topics related to active aging and family caregiving. Her work has been featured on The TODAY show, The Early Show, National Public Radio, and in USA Today, Wall Street Journal, among numerous mainstream publications. Visit her website at www.elderindustry.com.