Aging – there’s no getting around it. We’re all getting older and the challenges of aging are numerous. Finding work, keeping it, maintaining a place to live, making friends, and dealing with our families. But what if you are one of the millions of citizens in America who did not marry. Or divorced decades ago. You have no children, nor siblings. You are, for all intents and purposes, alone in the world.
Have you made contingencies to deal with life’s challenges as you age? According to a 2012 study in The Gerontologist, about one-third of 45- to 63-year-olds are single, most of whom never married or are divorced.
These numbers are staggering and the implications are vast and challenging. As we age, our health challenges continue to increase. The possibility of senility, of hospitalization, of managing our day to day affairs may continue to grow. Adults who spend most of their time alone have increased risks of cardiovascular issues and cognitive decline.
There are many steps you can take to maintain or increase your quality of life, and in some cases are absolutely necessary to consider. Keep in mind that 69 percent of Americans will need long-term care, even though only 37 percent think they will, according to SeniorCare.com.
The general advice is: Plan early, review often, make friends and create a support structure where you can help and be helped in return. Community is life. If you need to move to a place more conducive to your needs, consider this as soon as you can. Consider joining AARP for information about how laws affected aging citizens and how best to understand your options. Seniors are creating communities where they can help each other maintain a quality of life, share interests and provide support as needed.
Aging is serious business and expensive: Many older Americans live on fixed incomes and yet still have serious (and expensive) health conditions. Don’t wait until you’re a senior citizen to start looking into how best to manage your finances and the cost of living.
Appoint a proxy: Before you start losing any cognitive capacities, consider designating that person as your durable power of attorney for health care, or the person who makes health care decisions for you when you’re no longer able.
Have a box with your most important information: Wills, trusts, Social Security card, and other paperwork before you lose your cognitive abilities or in case of an accident. Write down what you want to happen to you in case of long-term hospitalization. Include your medicines and medical references for doctors to consult if you are unable to speak. Arrange for your medical records to be available to a consulting physician.
Most importantly: Exercise, eat well, live well. Make friends. Getting old is not for the weak, though if you don’t take care of yourself, weakness and infirmary may be yours to manage for years to come.
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Even if you aren’t an “elder orphan” you may know one in your circle of friends. Have you ever discussed their status and their plans for the future?
If you are one of the people who has opted for limited contact with your family or have no appreciable family to speak of, what plans have you made to accommodate your lifestyle in the future?
Have you been a caregiver for an elderly relative? What could they have done to make caring for them easier?
What would you recommend to anyone who chooses to care for an aging parent or loved one? What’s the most important thing you would want them to know?
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