Older Adults Living Alone

Why go it alone?

A recent study noted in a Washington Post article by writer Judith Graham, notes that 22% of older adults in the US fall into a group called “elder orphans” or “solo agers”, referring to people who live alone and have no spouse or children. These people, no different than those who are fortunate enough to have family around in their later years, still need services than most elderly people need when they can no longer carry on alone. The luckier ones may have the option to relocate to a seniors’ facility where they can receive the care they need. Others may need to rely on friends or perhaps contract the needed services from a private home care provider where the elderly person may continue to line in their home.

In a survey of 500 people who identified with the Elder Orphan Facebook Group or 8,500 members, 70% of them stated that they had not identified a caregiver and 35% said they did not have friends or family to help them cope with their new challenges. About 31% of them said they were concerned about their future financial security and 23% said they had experienced at least one instance in the past year where they were not able to meet a financial obligation.

While the above focused on single individuals without a spouse or children, it could be easily considered to apply to aging singles who may have children living at great distances from them and who are not easily able to help in a timely manner. For some elderly singles who may have Dementia or Alzheimer’s, they may no longer have the cognitive ability to ensure their financial plan can support the services they will need.

The time to ensure the financial part of the equation is balanced is earlier in life and this applies for couples as well as for singles who have entered their retirement years. In the absence of having family nearby, a first step would be to meet with a trusted party to review the current financial situation and simplify it as may be found necessary. This will lower the stress of wondering if bills can be paid on time or, in the long run, whether money will run out one day and what can be done to address such concerns.  Once a plan is in place and followed, there will be points within it that will trigger change. Such changes could include a means to handle bill payments and other financial activities if needed. This could mean having an accountant help with monthly financial activities, bank account reconciliations, investment income changes, etc. A final stage in the planning for some people could mean their entering a Seniors’ Facility where they can continue to live as independent a life as possible but be in a location where 7 x 24 hour care is possible.

A good way to start is to meet with a person who can describe the services available and lay out a plan for the coming years. Upon review of the plan that would be tailored specifically for the individual or couple, the decision to continue and follow through with its recommendations or to have someone assist in its execution. The level of involvement by the trusted and capable party would be such that it could simply be an assessment or one that would assign a person to meet on a periodic basis and carry out all the tasks necessary to allow the senior time to enjoy their life without the worry of missing a bill payment or feeling that they are missing out on one or another aspect of their life.

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