Eventually, the hands of time catch up with all of us. While some elderly people look forward to having family members, such as a spouse or adult children take care of them, not all seniors are so lucky. They have to face the prospect of getting old alone.
How does one prepare for this life change?
Here are some tips for preparing for old age alone:
- Take good care of your health, and don’t wait until you’re older to do it
- Set up medical care early
- Finalize legal prep ahead of time
- Consider where you’ll live
- Save up for retirement
- Don’t isolate
- Stay active
- Stay in touch with loved ones
Going through your senior years alone doesn’t have to be the depressing prospect many perceive it as. Some choose it intentionally while others don’t, but in either situation, you can enjoy your days with dignity.
This guide will provide more pointers on how!
What Are The Problems With Elderly People Living Alone?
As the Baby Boomers age, they will likely need more help with daily tasks. Many will rely on a family caregiver, but not everyone has family nearby who can help them out.
These seniors who are on their own are sometimes referred to as elder orphans.
We define elder orphans as aged, community-dwelling individuals who are socially and/or physically isolated, without an available known family member or designated surrogate or caregiver. This demographic, those aging alone with limited support, is expected to increase as the United States population continues to age and people live in the community with more chronic illnesses.Carney, et al, National Library of Medicine
As we said, some older people prefer independent living in their own home, but some have no choice. Regardless how it happens, this lifestyle comes with its fair share of hurdles.
Without further ado, let’s present some challenges that solo agers will have to overcome in their golden years..
No One To Help You If You Get Hurt
According to the CDC, older adults fall at a rate of 36 million per year, which leads to three million emergency room visits for injuries and 32,000 deaths.
Statistically, that means it’s fairly likely you’ll fall in your older years. When that happens, and you’re alone in your home, who will help you?
You might be able to reach your phone, but not always. Medical alert bracelets and other devices help, but only if you have access to them.
After a slip and fall, you need immediate medical attention. The longer you go without care, the more severe your injuries could become, and you might have complications to boot.
Before this happens, take steps to ensure you’re shielded from dangers in the house with this home safety checklist.
You Have To Do All The Housework Yourself
Once it’s just you in the house, the full responsibility of housework is your cross to bear.
If you don’t like cleaning the gutters because you get nervous on ladders, you have to swallow your fears or hire someone to do the job.
Well, either that or it doesn’t get done, and therein lies the biggest risk when living alone.
Mobility issues can leave you limited on what you can do, so things pile up and pile up until they become unreasonable for one person to do alone, especially a senior-aged person.
You Have No One To Rely On For Transportation
In later life, many people need to see doctors and other medical specialists for care frequently.
When you live alone, determining how you’ll get to these appointments becomes exponentially harder than when you live with someone else.
You might end up with health problems or eyesight issues that would make it difficult to drive to the grocery store or other places you need to go, as well.
If you find yourself unable to drive one day, then what?
You Have To Pay For Everything Alone
Life doesn’t come cheap, and even that’s putting it mildly. You may feel the financial crunch more when living alone at this stage of life than at any other time previously.
You have to pay to keep the roof over your head, food in your belly, and gas in your car (if you still drive). You have electric bills, water bills, sewer bills, not to mention likely medical bills.
If you fall behind on your bills, you risk losing your home, which puts immense pressure on you.
You’re Likelier To Get Lonely
In a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the CDC found that one-fourth of adults 65 and up experienced social isolation.
When you live by yourself, your risks of loneliness shoot way up. The CDC notes that feelings of loneliness can cause a variety of mental health concerns and medical problems, including:
- Higher risk of heart failure (with a 4x risk of death)
- Greater instances of suicide, anxiety, and depression
- 32 percent elevated stroke risk
- 29 percent higher heart disease risk
- 50 percent higher dementia risk
How Do You Survive Alone In Old Age?
To be clear, we didn’t list the risks above to keep you from preparing for old age alone. If that’s something you’re interested in or have no choice in, then you should!
These survival tips will help you do it.
Isolation, as the last section proves, can lead to a whole myriad of health symptoms for the elderly.
While you don’t have to spend every waking moment with someone, especially if you’re living alone, you should try not to go longer than a few days without some type of social connection.
While keeping in touch with friends and family works, you should also get out into the world.
Volunteering is a good way to do this. You can stay active while helping the less fortunate, give back to your community, potentially learn new skills, and expand your social circle all at the same time.
Moving into a retirement community can also help you make new friends and expand your social network.
Keeping active isn’t easy in your old age, but it can make a big difference in your quality of life, especially if you’re alone.
Exercise and staying active can also help to ward off or slow cognitive decline.
In one study, exercise stimulated the human brain’s ability to maintain old network connections and make new ones that are vital to cognitive health. Other studies have shown that exercise increases the size of a brain structure important to memory and learning, resulting in better spatial memory. Aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, is thought to be more beneficial to cognitive health than nonaerobic stretching and toning exercise.National Institute on Aging
Exercise keeps your weight down, supports you physical health, and can increase endorphins that make you happier.
There’s also a social component to exercise, especially if you choose to take a stroll around a local park, join a gym, or sign up for a group exercise class.
Keep In Communication With Loved Ones
Lastly, we recommend keeping current with your favorite people, including friends and family.
They are your support system, as well as people you care about, so its vital that they know what’s happening in your world.
You don’t have to visit in person if you can’t do that due to distance or you simply don’t want to.
Today, you can use apps like Zoom or FaceTime, or devices like Amazon’s Echo Show to see your loved ones without physically sharing the same space.
How Do You Prepare Yourself For Old Age?
You have a lot of options for preparing yourself for old age. Per the intro, let’s go over them now.
Take Good Care Of Your Health; Don’t Wait Until You’re Older To Do It
Whether you think you may want to prepare for old age alone or you worry you’ll be forced into it, that’s a good enough reason to prioritize your health if you’re not already doing so.
Why wait until you’re old when you can begin taking better care of yourself now? After all, with age comes more severe health issues and complications.
If you maintain a healthy lifestyle starting right here at the age you’re at now, you might find that aging happens more gracefully and painlessly.
This puts you in a better position to age alone.
Set Up Medical Care Early
A lot of people develop health conditions and need medical care when they get older. If you do, you’re not going to have a caretaker, adult child, spouse, or partner to help you with it all.
First, we recommend learning what kind of insurance may be available to you so you can begin planning financially for this aspect of your life.
Keep in mind that depending on your age, the insurance you have now might not be the insurance you still use in your later years.
In addition, consider getting long-term care insurance.
It’s a good idea to look for a policy that will help with paying for personal care in your home, as well as the typical ones that cover elder care in an assisted living facility or nursing home.
Next, begin preparing for adequate medical care. Look up assisted living options, doctors and hospitals in your area, and you might even check into hospice care.
Finalize Legal And Financial Prep Early
Another hugely important aspect to think about when preparing for old age alone is your finances and your legal rights.
If you don’t already have a living will, it’s time to put one together. Think carefully about who would receive what, as after you’re gone, the will applies.
Do you have substantial assets? You’ll also need a lawyer’s help to go through and determine what will be allocated and how.
You’ll also need to name a financial power of attorney to handle your financial affairs in case you become incapacitated, along with someone who will act as your medical power of attorney in the event you cannot make decisions about your own medical care.
Consider Where You’ll Live
Earlier, we discussed the possibility of getting overwhelmed with house care and being unable to keep up.
Look at where you live now. Do you realistically think you can continue to manage your home as you get older, especially when you’re the only one available to do it?
If you have doubts, you might want to consider your living options.
You don’t necessarily have to give up your home and move into an assisted living community, but you might consider downsizing your home to something more manageable as you age.
Save Up For Retirement
With only one income to contribute to retirement, you’re going to struggle more to save the extra money.
Since you can only work for so long, the earlier you can begin setting aside cash for retirement (and the more you set aside), the better.
How Can I Make My Body Stronger For Old Age?
A strong body is more fall-resistant and might be able to keep up with the rigors of solo house maintenance for longer. Let’s wrap up by discussing your options for strengthening your body in your old age.
An active lifestyle will certainly keep you strong. The best thing to do is to engage in a variety of physical activity several times per week.
Incorporate resistance training into core exercises, especially, to help you build strength and muscle.
Once you’ve toned your body, resistance training will continue to keep you in tip-top shape so you’ll feel ready for what life has to throw at you.
Follow A Good Diet
A balanced, nutritious, well-rounded diet will improve your health and strength. Healthy meals should contain between 25 and 30 grams of protein to keep bones and muscles strong.
Consider Taking Vitamins
Vitamins, supplements, and minerals can introduce more nutrients that your diet alone can’t provide, enabling you to take better care of your health.
Preparing for old age alone is a choice some of us make and a number of people have foisted upon them.
While it’s not as easy to be alone in your senior years compared to having a caregiver, spouse or partner, or adult child live with you, with the advice in this guide, you can make it happen and still enjoy a high quality of life!