Roughly one out of every three people who are currently between the age of 45 and 63 are unmarried. Most of these are unmarried by choice, having either never married in the first place or married and then divorced. This figure represents an increase of 50% from 1983 in the number of single people in this age range.
Many of the people in this situation deliberately chose to put their career or other interests in front of the opportunity to marry and/or raise children. While there is nothing wrong with such a decision, one of the outcomes is that many people in this age range are facing the prospect of growing older without a spouse or children to assist in providing care. Dubbed “elderly orphans” in U.S. News & World Report, these people face special challenges when it comes to aging in place.
If this is your situation, you will be encouraged to know that there are things you can do to prepare for your later years. Further, simply the fact that you may not have a spouse or children to provide care for you does not mean that you will be forced to age without a support group. Here are some things to consider and some steps to take in order to prepare for aging without a close family member to assist you.
Become engaged in some sort of social group
One fallacy is that if you have a spouse or children, then you need not be concerned with whether you will have help as you age. However, this is an incorrect assumption: simply having close family members does not guarantee that they will be able to act as a caretaker.
One of the best things to do—whether you have close family or not—is to become actively engaged in some type of social group. Studies have shown that elderly people who are lonely have an increased chance of having difficulty completing normal routine tasks. Further, isolated people are more likely to develop chronic illness or even die. One of the best things you can do in order to prepare for old age is to have an active social group with which you regularly interact.
Consider the realities of your situation now
It’s best to consider the challenges you’ll face now—when you are younger and still able to make adjustments—so that you can be better prepared to handle them when they arise. Nobody likes to be surprised by an issue they didn’t see coming, and this is especially important when it comes to issues related to aging in place without close family or friends to act as caregivers.
Begin making preparations early
In addition to considering your situation later in life, it’s best to act now in order to begin preparing. Consider purchasing long-term care insurance earlier in life (when the premiums are lower) and begin investigating places where you may want to live out your days of retirement. It’s never too early to make plans regarding where you’ll retire to, especially since you can always change them later on down the road if you decide to.
Consider your location
When you’re in middle age, it’s easy to live in a rural area without any reliable public transportation. Yet consider how that may impact you if you decide to retire there. It’s easier to move to a new state when you’re younger, so you may want to begin thinking long-term about your living arrangements and take steps to relocate to an area where there are plenty of chances for interaction to keep you engaged, as well as a solid mass-transit infrastructure to ensure you are not isolated in your home.
When you’re young and carefree, it’s easy to overlook the challenges you may face later on in life. However, your younger years are precisely the best years to make preparations for aging in place. Consider your situation, and how it will be when you are older. Then begin taking steps to put yourself in the best position to age without being dependent on family or friends.
Miller, Anna. (October 26, 2015). No Spouse, No Kids, No Caregiver: How to Prepare to Age Alone. U.S. News & World Report. Available at
http://health.usnews.com/health-news/health-wellness/articles/2015/10/26/no-spouse-no-kids-no-caregiver-how-to-prepare-to-age-alone. Last visited December 3, 2015.
Blanchard, Janice. (February 2, 2014). Aging in Community: The Communitarian Alternative to Aging in Place, Alone. Generations. Journal of the American Society on Aging. Available at http://asaging.org/blog/aging-community-communitarian-alternative-aging-place-alone. Last visited December 3, 2015.
Steptoe, Andrew, Shankar, Aparna, Demakakos, Panayotes, & Wardle, Jane. (2009). Social isolation, loneliness, and all-cause mortality in older men and women. Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences of the United States of America, 110(15): 5797-5801. Doi: 10.1073/pnas.1219686110. Available online at http://www.pnas.org/content/110/15/5797.full.