Five ideas you need to consider for becoming a happy single retiree.
No one sets out to be isolated and alone in retirement, but it can happen to anyone. “Americans are spending less time than ever in the married state,” says Susan Brown of the National Center for Family & Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. This “raises questions about who’s going to care for these people as they age and experience health declines.”
Baby boomers had fewer children than earlier generations, and significant numbers of baby boomers are childless, according to demographer Jonathan Vespa of the U.S. Census Bureau. “As people have fewer children, there are fewer people in that next generation to help take care of that older generation,” he says.
How will these single elders—people with no relatives to take care of them—navigate the treacherous waters of old age? Here are five tips for living your best life as a single older American:
1. Don’t wait.
Plan early for the financial consequences of aging alone. It’s never too early to save for retirement, strategize your best option for Social Security withdrawals or pay down your house. The point is to create the biggest nest egg possible to use in retirement. This is especially important for single adults who are more likely to need to pay for home care, ride services and a retirement home.
Remember that 69 percent of Americans will require long-term care, although a mere 37 percent think they will, according to a survey by SeniorCare.com. That number increases for women, who tend to outlive their spouse and thus feel the effects in larger numbers than men.
2. Work at friendships.
Social connections are a vital component of aging well. A recent study found that for adults 50 years of age and older, those who felt loneliest were almost twice as likely to die within six years as those who felt least lonely, regardless of their health or social status.
Senior centers are a welcome source of friendship and social engagement in many communities. While programs vary, many local senior centers offer libraries, art classes, card and board games, and forays out for cultural events, while some supply a balanced daily meal with a chance to converse with others. Senior adults are also finding a sense of belonging in faith communities and churches, and metropolitan areas are increasingly home to secular communities as well for non-believers.
Maintaining friendships is critical for single elders. Depression occurs in almost 20 percent of people over the age of 64, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The more things someone does to keep the body and the mind active, the better the outcome.
3. Appoint a legal delegate.
Before you are incapacitated by time or a medical event, choose a proxy who can help with medical decisions as your durable power of attorney appointee. They need to know what medications you’re on, your insurance information, your social security number and anything else that might be necessary in an emergency.
Various directives can cover a financial or medical power of attorney, a living will and/or advanced directives, such as Five Wishes, which serves as a legal document in most states when signed and witnessed.
Single elders without a trusted friend or relative can rely on an attorney who specializes in elder care law. Get a recommendation, and check online ratings for a reliable professional.
4. Evaluate a move.
If there is no compelling reason to stay where you are, single elders s can use their single status as a bonus and make a move without having to consult a spouse. You may downsize into a tiny house, relocate to a less expensive city with a walkable neighborhood, or benefit from a college town with free classes and a vibrant atmosphere.
5. Take care of your body.
Avoid cognitive decline and the isolation of a wheelchair by feeding your body well and exercising regularly. Silver Sneakers exercise programs are widely available. Research studies continue to find strong links between diet and cognitive capacity, in addition to healthy foods creating stronger bodies for better mobility and a wider range of activities.
(Society of Senior Advisors)
For more information on how to plan for your future home care needs, contact our Lynchburg office (434) 455-6500 or Roanoke (540) 776-3622.