The Unique Needs of Solo Agers
A solo ager is a person or couple without adult children to rely on for assistance or support in the event of an emergency, a prolonged illness, or living a long life that may eventually require help to sustain.
Navigating the aging process, our fragmented healthcare system, housing choices, and financial planning is hard enough when you have a family system to assist, but going it alone can present its own set of challenges.
The majority of adult children of aging parents step up and provide support, whether they are nearby or at a distance.
They help with issues surrounding:
- Where to live or when to move
- Safety and emergency preparedness
- Advocacy within the medical system
- Transportation to doctor’s appointments
- Emotional and/or financial support
- Social engagement
- And so much more…
Without an adult child to provide the assistance that many others easily rely upon, the solo ager needs to plan even more carefully.
Here are some examples of planning that solo agers need to pay particular attention to:
- Who will be your power of attorney or your health care agent in charge of making end-of-life decisions if you cannot?
- Who are your beneficiaries on your IRA, life insurance policies, and bank/brokerage accounts?
- Who can you call upon in the event of a natural disaster/evacuation?
- Who is providing emotional support?
- Who will assist you with medical decision-making?
- Who will help with bill paying and making sure everything is paid on time?
- Who will coordinate your care, if needed?
- Who will act as your advocate?
Solo agers should start their planning process and appoint their surrogate decision-makers even sooner than those with children in the picture. They will need to give serious thought to their choices of Power of Attorney, Executor of their Will, health care representatives, etc., and have frank conversations with the individuals they are considering appointing. These “tasks” are big ones and come with a lot of responsibility, so the goal is to choose wisely.
Aside from all the issues mentioned above, solo agers also need to be mindful of their emotional needs and how big a role social connection actually plays. According to the National Institute on Aging, the health risks of prolonged isolation are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Social isolation and loneliness have been estimated to shorten a person's life span by as many as 15 years. Personal connection is important for everyone, but without extended family, solo agers often need to rely on friends for engagement. Having a circle of even just a few close friends will likely lead to a happier, healthier, longer life.
In the end, solo agers can age just as beautifully as someone with a large extended family, but it requires more planning, insight, and deliberate action.