On Your Own?
Six Tips - An Update #120
BEFORE WE GET STARTED: THANK YOU!
Thank you for reading and subscribing to the newsletter. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it.
And thank you for your comments. I missed responding to a few of them along the way, and I will be more responsive now that they are back on my radar.
About a year ago, I wrote the article Are you a Sole Ager? I am republishing it with edits if you missed out the first time. A post I published a few minutes earlier, PaperWork-A Reminder, provides additional information.
There is no doubt that family and friends have kept me going since Dan died. However, many older adults don’t have that gift. So, let’s review what they can do to help themselves age well, given their circumstances.
According to The Joint Commission on Housing at Harvard
Most households headed by someone age 65 or over are married couples alone (37 percent) or single individuals (42 percent). With age, however, the share of solo households increases, reaching 58 percent among those 80 and over.
As the baby boomers reach their 80s over the next 20 years, the number of single-person households among the oldest age group will grow dramatically, from 4.7 million households in 2018 to an estimated 10.1 million in 2038.
The truth is that today’s older Americans are entering a time when 70% of them will require care, and there may be no one to provide it. So, they must take matters into their own hands, explore options, and familiarize themselves with available resources. Only then can they relax about their future.
Before Dan struggled with dementia, we had a will and powers of attorney. Yet, wehadn’t discussed issues like housing, transportation, or health care if one of us was incapacitated or died. We were unprepared in many ways.
After dementia took hold, Dan lost his power to choose. I made the decisions, and they would not have been his. Today, I want to have my affairs in place so others won’t have that burden.
Based on my experience and research, I identified six tips to help older people better prepare for the future – especially those aging with no family to support them.
Let me know what you think!
Tip 1: Have A Vision - Determine where you want to be and what you want to be doing ten years from now. Ask yourself what a fulfilling life would look like. Does it include finding a new job, volunteering, taking an online course, or joining an interest group?
Planning for the future is a demanding but necessary task. This vision is only your best guess, but it’s a start. It will change over time. Areas to consider include:
Housing - Do you want to stay at home or move to an apartment? Do you want to live in a retirement community?
Connections - Who will support you, and how can you build those relationships?
Finances - Will you have enough money to pay for future costs?
Caregiving - Who will take care of you when you no longer can? Do you have a general physician and adequate insurance? Have you a responsible assisted facility in mind if necessary? Have you visited the site, asked questions, talked with residents, and understood the accommodations?
Transportation – How will you get around if you don’t drive a vehicle?
Legal Paperwork - Do you have up-to-date powers of attorney and will?
Now is the time to do your homework – know what you want, what is available, and what you can afford. This information can provide peace of mind and give you an advantage when making life decisions.
Tip 2: Make A Plan - Once you have a vision for the future, it’s time to plan. Without it, you have little control over your future and care. With guidance, you can determine who makes your healthcare and financial decisions when you no longer can.
Tip 3: Build A Support System - After you have a plan, it’s time to implement it. The first step is identifying those who can help you make important decisions and choices. Decide who can fill the role of caregiver and establish those relationships before you need them. Identify people to call when you need assistance, inform friends or neighbors of your needs, and figure out who to support in return. In a sense, build yourself a family.
Tip 4: Complete A Legal and Financial Check-Up – Have a will and power of attorney and know your finances. Ensure that legal documents are in order and that they clearly define your end-of-life preferences. The article, PaperWork - A Reminder, offers additional tips.
Tip 5: Meet Your Social Needs - A major issue for seniors is loneliness. Apps can check on you daily, and Alexa can read and play music. Computers allow you to stay in touch with friends and people with similar interests.
Tip 6: Learn About Self-care – This is an essential puzzle piece. The youtube channel Sixty and Me is a great resource. Take a look!
Self-care includes taking care of your health. The article, 10 Steps to Healthy, Happy Aging, on the Everyday Health website suggests body changes that might require attention. Be informed.
Even though I am not a sole ager, I am preparing as if I were - just in case. The following is my plan.
I see myself writing this newsletter, doing art, knowing how to use my phone, iPad, and computer expertly, and traveling with family for the next ten years.
I want to stay in my apartment for as long as possible. Restaurants, the doctor, and the bank are within walking distance. I know how to use delivery services such as Amazon and DoorDash.
I visited local care facilities and met with in-home care providers as I made decisions for Dan. In-home care is my first option, and I know who to contact.
If I need additional care, my name is on the list at an assisted living facility. I plan to visit and get comfortable at the facility beforehand.
I have selected a crematorium and hospice care when needed.
After having a detached retina, I was afraid to drive and gave up my driver’s license. Now, I walk, but I can also use Uber, taxis, or public transportation.
Fortunately, we had a lawyer, wills, and powers of attorney in place. Dan wouldn’t have understood or been able to sign the paperwork in later years. Having it in place was vital.
I kept our financial planner and CPA to help manage the finances.
I go out as often as possible, have online friends, and have renewed old relationships. I could find other ways to socialize - maybe join the local senior center - but that doesn’t sound like me.
I eat healthy food and walk daily. I am finding ways to manage the loneliness and grief, honor what I have accomplished over the past years, and do my best.
An article by Matt Frasier, a well-known psychic medium, says that to heal, we must accept, forgive, and move on. Healing remains a work in progress.
My friend has a chronic illness, and she is a sole ager.
She sees herself as aging well despite a somewhat confining health issue. She has a boat, takes trips, is involved in numerous activities, and enjoys life.
She selected a retirement community and paid a retainer fee to live there when necessary. Until then, she plans to remain in her home, which she and her husband designed with the disability in mind.
Her legal and financial affairs are in order. She has an executor of her estate who holds the financial and medical power of attorney.
Her friends have a phone tree. They check in every morning and get together often. They take each other to appointments and help out as needed. This group of friends doesn’t make up for the loneliness of losing her husband ten years ago, but they are a robust support system.
She cares for her health, has regular check-ups, and pays attention to her current needs, which include wearing a brace and using a cane.
While many people fear growing old alone and losing their independence, they can take steps today to prepare. Actions that can ensure their well-being later on and their peace of mind now.
In retrospect, I wish we had been better prepared ,and I hope you will be.
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