Single and Alone? Who Will Care for You?

Single and Alone? Who Will Care for You?

A growing number of Americans are unmarried and childless, and they may be facing the prospect of an uncertain, solitary old age. A New York Times article, Single? No Kids? Don’t Fret: How to Plan Care in Your Later Years, by Susan B. Garland, tells how one childless woman has strategically planned for her old age.

A multipronged retirement plan based on creating community

Sarah Peveler is 71, divorced and childless, and she’s actively orchestrating her retirement plan. She needed to find a place with a mild climate, where she could make friends and walk everywhere. She decided on Tarboro, NC—75 miles from Raleigh, a nice-sized town of 11,000 with mild weather.

Ms. Peveler paid cash for her one-story home. One of the bedrooms can be converted into an apartment if she needs a caretaker. Several mini-strokes had caused some cognitive impairment, so Ms. Peveler’s doctor monitors her regularly. A family history of dementia means that she is checking out assisted-living facilities. With no immediate family, Ms. Peveler has developed a surrogate family of friends and neighbors who keep tabs on her. She also signed up for EyeOn App, a service that signals three friends if she doesn’t reply within a half hour to scheduled cellphone alerts.

“Elder orphans” need to build their own support systems

Adult children typically help elderly parents negotiate housing, social-service and healthcare options. “Elder orphans”—aging Americans without children–need to build their own support structures. People who are aging alone need to make plans when they are still independent and functional. They need to learn about community resources and when to start using them. Services could include senior-friendly housing and the growing number of home-delivered products and services that target the aging solo market, including healthy meals and doctors who make house calls.

Creating a team that can help make important decisions

One of the first steps childless people should take is to hire an elder-law lawyer to draw up documents that will protect them if they become incapacitated. Childless people typically turn to a friend, lawyer, clergy, a niece or nephew to make medical decisions. A bank’s trust unit can take on financial tasks, with a friend, a relative or a lawyer monitoring the bank’s decisions.

One elder-law attorney suggests appointing a team that includes a lawyer, healthcare and financial agents, an accountant and a geriatric care manager. The team can step in if/when it becomes necessary. The client could assign a network of friends and neighbors to call the lawyer in an emergency or if they notice cognitive decline.

Housing options for elder orphans seeking community

One very successful housing model is one that includes its own built-in support system—a continuing-care retirement community. Residents generally start in an independent living unit. When it becomes necessary, they can move to the facility’s assisted-living unit or a skilled-nursing facility. Entrance and monthly fees for this kind of facility tend to be substantial.

Most seniors want to remain in their own homes for as long as possible

Changes in Medicare mean that seniors who qualify can now get in-home services such as help with chores and safety devices. Simple home aid not only impact patients’ wellbeing but reduce costs for taxpayers.

In Washington, D.C., clients of Iona Senior Services can arrange for a care manager to be on call as their health deteriorates. If a client is discharged from a hospital, for example, the care manager, in consultation with the designated healthcare agent, would arrange for rehabilitation or home care.

Volunteer neighborhood groups responding to the needs of their communities

Meanwhile, as the huge baby boomer population ages, a growing number of volunteer neighborhood groups is providing both social connections and practical help to those who are home alone.

In an earlier article we wrote about the Caring Collaborative, an organization that brings senior women together to help with short-term illness or disability. In places like New York City, senior single women can become anonymous and lonely. When “Eileen” broke her ankle and was laid up for several months, she called the Caring Collaborative, and they responded. One woman brought a wheelchair, another a shower chair. Some stopped by each day just to chat. Others brought lunch or dinner.

Many organizations are responding to the growing needs of an aging boomer market

  • More than 200 organizations in the Village to Village Network in the New York area provide rides to medical appointments, snow removal, home repairs and computer support. Villages in 150 additional neighborhoods are in development. Tax-deductible membership fees can range from $100 to $400.
  • Entrepreneurs and companies, many nationwide, are moving into the longevity market. On-demand services, accessible by a phone app or a computer, can connect people to personal assistants and food delivery.
  • “The on-demand marketplace will be the best friend of elder orphans,” said Mary Furlong, a Silicon Valley consultant to companies that cater to seniors. Lyft is working with healthcare systems and retirement communities to provide rides to non-emergency medical appointments and other destinations.

For those aging solo, community is essential. It’s easy to become isolated at a time when you most need to be connected. Experts urge seniors to reach out to community organizations and find ways to get involved. Look for senior centers, libraries and other organizations that host events, lectures and other programs. They’re great ways to meet interesting new people and make friends.

Creating a Living Trust is another important part of retirement and life planning

Our Living Trust package includes a Power of Attorney and an Advance Healthcare Directive. Schedule an appointment today by contacting us at one of our three Bay Area officesOur dedicated team is helpful, compassionate and affordable.