Q: I live alone and do not have any children nearby. What do I need to know about preparing for the future if and when I need more help?

A: Planning ahead is always recommended as you age, epically if you’re a Solo Ager. Solo Agers are typically defined as people who do not have children and, therefore, no one built into their family to care for them as they age. Nowadays, we consider Solo Agers to be anyone who does not have that built in support system. It may be that the children are estranged, live far away or just unable to assist in this way for a variety of reasons.

When planning for the future, consider what is important to you and brings you health and happiness. This is a time to evaluate what you value in your life and how you see yourself in the future. Where you will be living, what your finances can allow for, who will be your support system, and how you will care for your health.

Solo Agers need to be especially mindful to think ahead and create a support system made up of friends or other family members besides children. Your social support system may include friends, neighbors, co-workers, and extended family. Think about who you have leaned on when you have been through something difficult. It may be time to work on cultivating those relationships and talking with your friends about where they plan to live and get support as they age.

It is important to have ways to stay social and engaged as we age. Now, during the pandemic, this may have changed for many of us. However, it has also brought out the emergence of technology as a way to stay connected. Be sure you have the proper technology and systems in place to ensure you can avoid isolation and maintain connections.

One important step to prepare is your Advanced Health Care Directive (AHCD). This is a legal document that explains how you want your healthcare decisions made if you are unable to speak for yourself. It also identifies your healthcare agent who will be the person you select to speak for you. Consider who to assign as your agent carefully, taking into account someone who is geographically close, someone you trust, a person who is comfortable discussing these topics with you and advocating in a healthcare setting, and someone who will not allow their emotions to get in the way of following your wishes.

Once you complete your AHCD make sure to review it with your healthcare agent, provide them a copy, and provide a copy to your doctor(s). The form will not be helpful if people cannot access it easily if there should be a healthcare emergency.

Senior Concerns held a seminar on the topic of Solo Aging and the recording is available on the website at https://www.seniorconcerns.org/seminars/ if you scroll down and click the link to view it. This may provide some useful tips and topics to consider.

Society often values independence, but the truth is that interdependence deserves to be appreciated and seen as the future. By learning that we can lean on others, and using programs and services in the community, we can remain in our homes longer and safer. Reach out now and consider how to create a happy and healthy future for yourself.


Martha Shapiro can reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at mshapiro@seniorconcerns.org.

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