Aging Solo refers to a growing demographic phenomenon. The good news is that people are living longer, and they are living healthier, meaning living more years without illness. Unfortunately, there’s not so good news too. More and more, people are finding themselves without someone in their lives to help them if they develop an illness and need support. Additionally, more people—especially women—are living alone, divorced or widowed, or have no children, no local children, or no children who are able to help.
And, in reality, everyone might one day find themselves aging solo. Even if you currently have a likely helper in your life like a spouse, partner, adult child, or best friend, that person might not be available when needed.
Some experts call anyone who is aging solo an elder orphan. Here at Iona, we say that an elder orphan is someone who is aging solo and hasn’t made a plan for what will happen when they need help.
Bottom line: you don’t want to be an elder orphan. Instead, make time to develop an aging solo plan so that if—or, more likely, when—you find yourself needing extra assistance, you’ll have a plan in place.
Why making a plan is so important:
The older we get the more likely we’re going to develop some kind of health condition that can inhibit our ability to care for ourselves, for example:
- Vision decline
- Mobility issues
Often, these illnesses affect our ability to handle day-to-day activities like driving, grocery shopping, medication management, or making financial decisions. If they worsen, you may also face challenges with eating, dressing, bathing, or walking. Difficulty with these activities affects our quality of life, as well as our ability to handle our daily lives.
Additionally, you may also need help down the line navigating different care transitions, like hospitalizations, discharges to rehab facilities, and the next steps for after care (like home care or some kind of long-term care).
What goes into an Aging Solo Plan:
- The “Stay or Move” decision. What services or planning do you need to age in your community? Do you need to renovate? Should you make a move? Some people choose to move to Continuing Care Retirement Community or assisted living so they have support available.
- Financial planning: Can you afford care if you need it? What sources of funding available to you?
- Legal planning: Do you have an Advance Directive? A Financial Power of Attorney (POA)? Does someone have a list of your user names and passwords to online accounts?
- Assemble your team (this is most important): Do you have a legal decision-maker? Can you identify someone to come to the hospital to be your communicator advocate? Have you researched services like Care Management or tapped into your local Village?