Many Baby Boomers Need to Prepare for Aging Alone
The 1960s brought about a revolution in American culture. Many from the baby boom generation eschewed their parents’ ideas of the perfect life and embraced a way of living that fit their own style. They weren’t as quick to get married as their parents, were more likely to divorce if they did marry, and were less likely to have children.
This has left many older Americans with a smaller safety net if they need care due to ill health. Roughly one-third of baby boomers are single. And while today’s seniors have an average of seven family members who can help care for them should they need it, this number is expected to plummet to about three when baby boomers reach their 80s. For many, that number will be zero. These people, sometimes called “solo agers,” need to start planning now to help ensure a safe and comfortable future. A 2016 study showed that single and childless adults have a higher risk of medical problems, cognitive decline and premature death compared to those with children. A 2018 survey showed that 70% of so-called “elder orphans” had not identified someone to care for them should they need it and 35% didn’t have anyone who could help them in a crisis.
So what can solo agers do to help create a safe and healthy future? Here are some tips:
Find a living arrangement that offers support
If you currently live alone and don’t have anyone nearby who can offer support, look into a new living situation. Numerous options are available – including retirement communities, house sharing (a la The Golden Girls), and retirement villages (such as The Villages in Florida). Creating a social network is one of the best ways to help ensure you’ll have someone to help you continue living life to its fullest.
Create a healthcare proxy
A health care proxy (or Power of Attorney for Health Care) is a legal document that names a person you choose to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so. Choose someone you can trust to serve as your agent and who will ensure your medical and end-of-life wishes are honored.
Consult a financial advisor
Get a financial checkup to help ensure you have enough funds to create a comfortable future. If you’re not yet retired, a financial advisor can help you determine when you may be able to do so. S/he can also advise you on the best time to apply for Social Security benefits, whether you should purchase long-term care insurance and when to start taking disbursements from your annuities, IRAs and 401Ks.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The best way to ensure a safe and healthy future is to start living more healthfully now. This includes eating well, exercising, socializing with others, stimulating your mind, getting enough quality sleep and reducing stress. The Aging Well blog has numerous articles on how to live more healthfully as does our Tools for Better Living page.
Hire professional help
An aging life care manager can help solo agers find the resources they need to age well. LifeCare Advocates has specific programs for solo agers, including our Care Committee and consultations for proactive planning. Our expertise in this area can help ensure you have the tools and assistance to continue living a safe, prosperous and healthy life.