As we age into our golden years, it’s natural to worry about how we’ll take care of ourselves when we can no longer do so on our own. For those who do not have children, this can be especially daunting, as there may not be anyone to rely on when we need help.
One of the best decisions I ever made for myself was to not have children. It’s not for everyone, but I knew it was (and still is) the right decision for me. And come to find out, although it’s not a majority, there are more childfree people than you would think.
Being childless is often seen as rare and abnormal. While it’s true that the majority of people will have kids in their lifetime, childlessness “is more common than many people realize,” said Chrastil. “About 15 percent of women in the US reach the age of 45 without having had children,” either by choice or because they’re unable to. That’s about one out of seven—more common than being left-handed.Seth Gillihan, PhD on psychologytoday.com
But, along with that come some responsibilities that I need to take seriously, such as planning for my old age.
Planning for old age is important because as we get older, our physical and mental abilities may decline, and we may require more support and care to live comfortably. By planning ahead, we can ensure that we have the resources and support in place to meet our needs and maintain our independence.
Without proper planning, we may be more vulnerable to financial, legal, and health-related challenges in later life, which can have a significant impact on our quality of life.
Being childless can present unique challenges as we age, especially when it comes to planning for our care and support needs. Without children, we may not have an automatic support system in place, and we may have to rely on friends, neighbors, or paid caregivers for assistance.
Having no adult children to provide support can be daunting, but there are steps you can take to ensure that you have the resources and care in your later years.
Elder Orphans or Solo Agers do not have to live in fear. Through proper preparation and arrangements in place, they should be able to grow old with grace and peace of mind.myelder.com
So, lets go over 10 steps that you can take to properly plan for your old age.
1. Create a financial plan
One of the most important first steps to take is to create a financial plan.
Financial planning is key to ensuring that you have enough money to cover your basic needs in old age. You’ll want to make sure that you have enough saved up for medical and long-term care costs, as well as other expenses.
Childless adults should (in my honest opinion) speak with a financial planner to help create a plan that is tailored to their individual needs.
Here are some steps you can take:
- Assess your current financial situation: Take stock of your assets, debts, and income. This will give you a starting point for creating a financial plan.
- Determine your retirement needs: Estimate how much money you will need in retirement to maintain your standard of living. Consider factors such as inflation, healthcare costs, and long-term care expenses.
- Create a retirement budget: Determine how much you will need to spend in retirement and create a budget that takes into account your expected income and expenses.
- Invest in a diversified portfolio: Invest in a mix of assets such as stocks, bonds, and real estate, depending on your risk tolerance and investment goals.
- Consider working with a financial advisor: A financial advisor can help you develop a customized financial plan that takes into account your unique needs and goals.
- Plan for long-term care expenses: Consider purchasing long-term care insurance to help cover the costs of medical care and assistance as you age.
- Review your estate plan: Make sure you have a will, trust, and other important estate planning documents in place to ensure your assets are distributed according to your wishes.
- Stay on top of your finances: Regularly review your financial plan and make adjustments as needed to ensure you stay on track to meet your goals.
In the case of any cognitive decline, consider adding a durable power of attorney document to your estate plan to ensure that your affairs are handled according to your wishes and best interests.
2. Consider long-term care insurance
Long-term care insurance is a type of insurance policy that helps cover the costs of long-term care services, such as nursing home care, assisted living, and in-home care.
Seniors without children should consider long-term care insurance because they may not have family members who can provide care and support as they age.
Here are some key facts to know about long-term care insurance:
- It covers the costs of long-term care: Long-term care insurance helps cover the costs of care in the event that you become unable to perform daily living activities such as bathing, dressing, and eating on your own.
- It can be expensive: Long-term care insurance premiums can be expensive, and they typically increase as you get older. However, the cost of long-term care can be even more expensive, so it may be worth the investment.
- It has different coverage options: There are different types of long-term care insurance policies, each with different coverage options and benefits. It’s important to carefully review your options and choose a policy that meets your needs and budget.
- It has eligibility requirements: You typically need to meet certain eligibility requirements, such as being in good health, to qualify for long-term care insurance. Waiting too long to purchase a policy can also affect your eligibility.
- It can provide peace of mind: By having long-term care insurance, seniors without children can have peace of mind knowing that they have a plan in place to cover the costs of long-term care services, without having to rely on family members or deplete their own assets.
For seniors without children, long-term care insurance can serve as a beneficial resource to guarantee access to top-notch care as they grow older. It’s crucial to thoroughly evaluate available options and select a policy that suits both your financial constraints and requirements.
3. Find a support network
As we age, having a strong support network in place can make all the difference. This could include a close friend, neighbors, and other members of the community who are willing to lend a hand when needed.
Childless seniors should build a support network as they grow older for several reasons:
- Emotional support: A support network can provide emotional support and companionship as seniors age. This can help reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation, which can negatively impact mental and physical health.
- Practical assistance: A support network can provide practical assistance with everyday tasks such as grocery shopping, transportation, and home maintenance. This can help seniors maintain their independence and quality of life.
- Advocacy: A support network can advocate for seniors without children in situations where they may need help, such as during medical appointments or financial matters.
- Safety: A support network can help seniors stay safe by checking in on them regularly and alerting authorities in case of an emergency.
- Planning for the future: A support network can help seniors without children plan for the future by providing guidance on issues such as long-term care, estate planning, and financial management.
The downside of just sticking with your long-term relationships and not building relationships with new friends is that your current friends and family may pass away before you do.
This is why it’s important to make an effort to meet new people and build new relationships as time goes on.
4. Develop a health plan
Developing a health plan is important for seniors without children to ensure they maintain good health as they age.
Here are some steps involved in developing a health plan:
- Schedule regular check-ups: Seniors without children should schedule regular check-ups with their healthcare provider to monitor their health and identify any potential health issues.
- Create a list of medications: Seniors without children should create a list of all the medications they are taking, including over-the-counter drugs and supplements. This can help ensure they don’t have any adverse reactions or drug interactions.
- Adopt a healthy lifestyle: Seniors without children should adopt a healthy lifestyle by eating a well-balanced diet, getting regular exercise, getting enough sleep, and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
- Manage chronic conditions: Seniors without children who have chronic health conditions should work with their healthcare provider to manage their condition and take any necessary medications or treatments.
- Consider preventive care: Seniors without children should consider preventive care, such as vaccines and cancer screenings, to maintain good health and prevent illness.
- Discuss end-of-life care preferences: Seniors without children should discuss their end-of-life care preferences with their healthcare provider and loved ones to ensure their wishes are respected.
- Plan for emergencies: Seniors without children should plan for emergencies by having a first aid kit, emergency contacts, and a plan for accessing medical care in case of an emergency.
- Medical power of attorney: Seniors without children should designate a medical power of attorney to make medical decisions on their behalf in case they become incapacitated.
Make sure to speak to an elder law attorney about your decisions and how they can best be carried out and protected.
5. Create an estate plan
Draft a will, set up a trust, and designate someone to make medical and financial decisions for you if you become incapacitated.
Seniors without children should create an estate plan for several reasons:
- Control over asset distribution: An estate plan allows seniors without children to decide how their assets will be distributed after they pass away. Without an estate plan, the state will determine how assets are distributed, which may not align with the senior’s wishes.
- Avoiding probate: An estate plan can help seniors without children avoid probate, which is the legal process of distributing assets after someone passes away. Probate can be time-consuming, expensive, and may result in assets being distributed in ways that are different from the senior’s wishes.
- Naming beneficiaries: An estate plan allows seniors without children to name beneficiaries for their assets, such as retirement accounts and life insurance policies. This can ensure that these assets go to the people or organizations the senior wants to receive them.
- Designating decision-makers: An estate plan allows seniors without children to designate decision-makers for medical and financial matters in case they become incapacitated. This can ensure that someone they trust is making important decisions on their behalf.
- Minimizing taxes: An estate plan can help seniors without children minimize estate and inheritance taxes, which can be significant for large estates.
- Ensuring privacy: An estate plan can help seniors without children ensure their privacy by keeping details about their assets and beneficiaries out of the public record.
Creating an estate plan is important for seniors without children to ensure their assets are distributed according to their wishes, avoid probate, name beneficiaries, designate decision-makers, minimize taxes, and ensure privacy.
It’s important to work with an experienced estate planning attorney to create a plan that meets your individual needs and preferences.
6. Simplify your living situation
Consider downsizing your home or moving to a senior living community that can provide care and support services. Some social workers may be able to help you to identify what senior housing options are available in your area.
Otherwise, you can speak to a geriatric care manager, they may be able to help you as well.
Seniors without children should simplify their living situation for several reasons:
- Reduce maintenance and upkeep: A smaller living space can be easier and less expensive to maintain, reducing the burden of cleaning, repairs, and yard work.
- Save money: Downsizing to a smaller home or moving to a senior living community can be less expensive, freeing up resources to cover other expenses such as healthcare and travel.
- Access to support services: Moving to a senior living community can provide access to support services such as transportation, meals, and medical care, which can help seniors maintain their independence and quality of life.
- Safety: A smaller living space or senior living community can be designed with safety in mind, with features such as grab bars and non-slip surfaces to reduce the risk of falls and other accidents.
- Socialization: Senior living communities provide opportunities for socialization with other seniors, which can help reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.
- Accessibility: A smaller living space or senior living community can be designed with accessibility in mind, making it easier for seniors with mobility issues to get around and access amenities.
The 11 different types of senior housing that are currently available include:
- granny pods
- subsidized housing
- active adult communities
- active adult rental communities
- tiny home retirement communities
- rv retirement communities
- senior villages
- senior co-housing
- home sharing
- residential care homes
- independent living
- assisted living
- continuing care retirement community
- memory care units
- and nursing homes
You can read more about these in depth in this other article we wrote about senior housing options.
7. Consider a power of attorney
Appoint someone you trust to manage your financial and legal affairs if you become unable to do so yourself.
Older people without children should create a durable power of attorney for several reasons:
- Decision-making: A power of attorney allows seniors without children to designate someone they trust to make important medical and financial decisions on their behalf in case they become unable to do so themselves.
- Avoiding court involvement: Without a power of attorney, a court may need to appoint a guardian or conservator to make decisions on the senior’s behalf. This can be a lengthy and expensive process that may not result in the senior’s preferred decision-maker being appointed.
- Ensuring wishes are respected: A power of attorney allows seniors without children to ensure their wishes are respected when it comes to medical and financial decisions, even if they are unable to make those decisions themselves.
- Minimizing family conflict: Designating a power of attorney can help minimize conflict among family members by ensuring that there is a clear decision-maker in place.
- Protecting against financial abuse: A power of attorney can help protect against financial abuse by designating a trusted person to manage financial matters in case the senior becomes unable to do so themselves.
A power of attorney is important for seniors without children to ensure that their wishes are respected, minimize family conflict, protect against financial abuse, and avoid court involvement.
There are 5 different types of power of attorney:
- Health Care Power of Attorney (HCPOA)
- Financial Power of Attorney
- General Power of Attorney
- Limited Power of Attorney
- Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA)
Speak to an elder law attorney about each of these and he/she can help you to make the decision of what type of power of attorney you will need.
8. Plan for end-of-life-care
Decide on your preferences for medical treatment and create advance directives for end-of-life care.
Childless people should plan for end-of-life care for several reasons:
- Ensure their wishes are respected: Planning for end-of-life care allows seniors without children to ensure that their wishes regarding medical treatment, life-sustaining measures, and other important decisions are respected, even if they are unable to communicate them themselves.
- Reduce burden on loved ones: By planning for end-of-life care, seniors without children can reduce the burden on their loved ones who may otherwise be left to make difficult decisions on their behalf.
- Minimize conflict among family members: Planning for end-of-life care can help minimize conflict among family members by ensuring that there is a clear plan in place that everyone understands and agrees upon.
- Ensure quality of care: Planning for end-of-life care can help ensure that seniors without children receive high-quality medical care and other support services in accordance with their wishes.
- Peace of mind: Planning for end-of-life care can provide seniors without children with peace of mind, knowing that they have a plan in place for their care and that their wishes will be respected.
Most people don’t want to think about (or take any action towards) end of life matters , but let’s face it, no one is getting out of this alive.
For the sake of your peace of mind and that of your loved ones, making end-of-life arrangements is essential. Don’t put it off.
Talk to an elder law attorney about what type of planning you need to do to ensure that your wishes are respected. They can help you create advance directives, such as a living will or durable power of attorney for healthcare, so that your final wishes are known if you become incapacitated.
9. Make a list of important information
Keep a record of important information such as bank accounts, insurance policies, and contact information for attorneys and financial advisors.
Seniors without children should make a list of important information for several reasons:
- Organization: Making a list of important information can help seniors without children stay organized and ensure that they have all the information they need at their fingertips.
- Accessibility: Having a list of important information readily available can ensure that seniors without children can access the information they need in case of an emergency.
- Peace of mind: Knowing that they have a list of important information can provide seniors without children with peace of mind, knowing that they are prepared for any situation.
- Financial management: A list of important information can help seniors without children manage their finances, including keeping track of bank accounts, investments, and other financial assets.
- Estate planning: A list of important information can be helpful for estate planning, including creating a will and trust, and designating beneficiaries for insurance policies and retirement accounts.
- Healthcare management: A list of important information can also help seniors without children manage their healthcare, including keeping track of medications, healthcare providers, and important medical records.
I love lists! They help me to keep organized but most important, they help to keep me from feeling overwhelmed.
10. Stay involved in your community
Participate in activities that keep you engaged and connected to your community, such as volunteering, joining a club or group, or taking classes.
Seniors without children should stay involved or get involved in their community for several reasons:
- Socialization: Staying involved or getting involved in the community can provide opportunities for socialization with other seniors and people of all ages. This can help reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation, which can negatively impact mental and physical health.
- Volunteer opportunities: Getting involved in the community can provide opportunities to volunteer and give back to the community, which can be fulfilling and provide a sense of purpose.
- Access to resources: Involvement in the community can provide access to resources such as community centers, libraries, and parks, which can provide opportunities for learning, exercise, and entertainment.
- Advocacy: Staying involved in the community can provide opportunities for seniors without children to advocate for issues that are important to them and make a difference in their community.
- Safety: Involvement in the community can help seniors without children stay connected and informed about safety issues, such as crime prevention and emergency preparedness.
- Learning opportunities: Involvement in the community can provide opportunities for seniors without children to learn new skills, pursue hobbies, and engage in lifelong learning.
Staying involved or getting involved in the community is important for seniors without children to maintain social connections, access resources, advocate for important issues, stay informed about safety, and pursue learning opportunities.
It’s important to explore different opportunities and find activities and groups that align with your interests and preferences.
It’s never too late to start planning and many people begin their planning process with books and information. So, here are some of my favorites.
Who Will Take Care Of Me When I’m Old?
In Case You Get Hit By A Bus
My Family Estate Legal Document Kit
I do hope that the information in this article is helpful for you. Being a senior without children can be challenging but it doesn’t mean you have to go through it alone. There are so many resources and organizations that offer support and companionship for seniors without children.
Taking the time to explore these organizations can help make life as a senior without children more enjoyable and fulfilling.