By Mary Jo Johnson, MPA, CMC, CDP, CADDCT
I want to talk about a topic that’s getting more attention these days: solo agers.
Solo agers are people who are growing older without the support of family. According to the demographers, solo agers have the following things in common:
- They are age 50 and up.
- They are unmarried.
- They live alone, and don’t have a significant other.
- There are no siblings, children, or extended family in the picture.
Solo agers are, quite literally, aging alone.
There are more solo agers than you might think. Roughly 12 percent of the U.S. population over the age of 50 are solo agers. According to the US Census Bureau, there are more than 20 million unmarried U.S. residents 65 and older. The Pew Research Center estimates that 27 percent of adults 60 and older live alone.
It’s no secret that aging can bring on a range of financial, health, and housing challenges. For older adults who lack the support system of a spouse or adult children, the challenges are even greater. A recent AARP survey revealed that solo agers are more likely to have fears of dying alone, being moved somewhere against their will, or having a court-appointed Guardian making decisions for them. Yet a full three-quarters of solo agers report that they have done little or no planning for their old age.
If you haven't started your planning, there's no time like the present. What can you do right now to get ready? Here are six suggestions.
- Make sure your wishes are known. Complete essential estate planning documents, including Wills and Trusts, Powers of Attorney, and Advance Directives.
- Identify people to act as financial and health proxies. If there’s no one to serve in fiduciary roles, Google “professional fiduciaries near me” to find someone you can pay to serve in the role.
- Stay connected to others. There are many people out there just like you. Find them!
- Think carefully about your housing situation. If your mobility were limited by illness or injury, would you still be able to navigate in the place you live now? If not, take steps now to make your home age friendly or consider moving to a place that is.
- Set up your first line of defense. Ask neighbors or friends to check in on you regularly, and invest in an alert system.
- Visit your local Life Care Planning Law Firm. They can help you get your estate planning affairs in order, help you protect assets from the high cost of long-term care, help you find ways to pay for long-term care, help you qualify for public benefits, assist with health insurance matters, and provide care coordination services when the time comes.
The time to start planning is now. In our society, many people put off planning for old age for as long as possible. Few people like to think about the realities of aging, such as declining health, loss of independence, and the possible need for long-term care. Let me close with a piece of advice. If you’re a solo ager without family members in the picture, it is vitally important that you take steps now to prepare for your future so you can age on your own, according to your wishes and preferences, without being alone.
Mary Jo Johnson is a life care coordinator at Kimbrough Law, a Life Care Planning Law Firm with offices in Athens and Gainesville, Georgia.