If you’re aging alone without a partner or spouse, you’ve got plenty of company. In 2017, about 28% of older adults lived alone, according to a study by the Administration for Community Living and the Administration on Aging.
Many people choose to age and live alone, while others may be divorced or widowed. Plenty of older adults also outlive their siblings and sometimes, even their children. Yet many people don’t anticipate or prepare to age alone, even though the likelihood is high. Read the top things you need to know about aging alone.
Talk with a Senior Living Advisor
Our advisors help 300,000 families each year find the right senior care for their loved ones.
Whether you’re aging alone now or want to prepare for later, here are eight things you should know about how to navigate aging alone:
You may be in good health now, but if you have a health crisis or long-term diagnoses such as Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s, you may benefit from hiring a care manager. According to the National Institute on Aging, a care manager specializing in geriatrics acts as a sort of “professional relative” who can help you identify and find ways to meet your needs as you age.
You may imagine yourself remaining in your home for the rest of your life. Maybe you plan on receiving in-home care if necessary and renovating your home for mobility and safety needs. If you’re planning to build a walk-in shower or install ramps, “get your wallet out, because you’re going to shell out some money,” says Loverde.
On the contrary, aging solo means that you’re in total control of your destiny, says Loverde. “You can be as neat or messy as you like,” she says. “You pick and choose your friends and their involvement in your life. You’re not legally bound to another.”
Along with friends, make sure you also have a network of legal and medical professional advocates that you trust. This network could include contacts at local senior services agencies, doctors, an estate attorney and a trusted therapist.
Even if you plan to live in your home forever, you don’t know what the future holds. The last thing you want is to try to sell your house in a crisis, using the first real estate agent that comes along. Loverde recommends choosing a real estate broker now and asking the following questions.
If you have no trusted person to serve as your Power of Attorney, some attorneys can perform a fiduciary role as an agent or Power of Attorney, says Rick Law, an elder law estate planning attorney and author of “Don’t Let Dementia Steal Everything: Avoid Mistakes, Save Money and Take Control.” Most of his guardianship clients are women who’ve been widowed, never married or have siblings who are all around the same age, says Law. Reach out to local senior services resources to find attorneys offering fiduciary agent services.
Keep in mind what Loverde calls the “revolving door” of relationships. As time passes, people can move, pass away or get sick. “You’ve got to constantly assess the health, mental and physical abilities of your immediate network, especially if these people are the same age, or close to the same age as you,” says Loverde.
If you live alone, prioritize having friends in place in case of an emergency. Even without an emergency, a doctor may require someone to drive you to a medical procedure and pick you up afterward. Or, you could have surgery and need someone to stay with you for a few days. Having only one or two people won’t cut it. “Your buddy system should be an army,” says Loverde.
Loverde says that some of the most knowledgeable experts she interviewed for her book were 90 years of age and older. “These were the people I relied on to tell me the facts of life,” says Loverde. “These people were already living the answers.”
What other things about aging alone should we know? We’d like to hear about what else we should add to this list in the comments below.