“Elder orphan.” “Solo senior.” “Solo ager.” These terms refer to the growing number of older Americans who are single, childless, and/or have no family members who will be there for them if they need care. If you fall into this category, planning for retirement has some unique challenges that go beyond financial decisions. Here are some things single people over age 65 need to know for a more secure retirement.
Aging While Single
For a long time, older adults could count on children or extended family to be their caregivers. But due to lower birth rates and divorce, the number of potential caregivers is shrinking, leaving today’s seniors with fewer options for family care. According to an AARP report:
- In 2010, there were more than 7 potential caregivers for each person over age 80.
- By 2030, that ratio is projected to shrink to 4 to 1.
- By 2050, when all current Baby Boomers will be over age 80, that ratio will be just 3 to 1.
Not having family caregivers can severely impact the health of single, childless people. A 2016 study found that they’re at a higher risk of developing medical problems, cognitive decline and dying prematurely.
If you’re a single senior without children, or don’t have children willing or able to provide care if you need it, include these three factors into your retirement planning.
While most older adults want to stay in their homes as they age, it’s not always a practical decision. And at some point, it might not be safe.
- Do you need to rightsize your home? A larger home may not be practical for a single person anymore. Unused space adds up to more maintenance, and you’ll be paying to heat and cool rooms you may not use.
- What happens if the upkeep becomes too much for you – physically and financially? Do you want to keep doing chores, repairs and maintenance? Will you be able to do those things as you get older? And do you want to keep paying to maintain it all? Homeowners can expect to pay up to 3% of a home’s cost each year for upkeep and maintenance. So a $200,000 house could cost you up to $6,000 annually.
- Is your current home really safe for aging in place? Only about 1% of current homes are considered conducive for aging in place. Necessary home modifications can range from installing grab bars in bathrooms and updating lighting, to widening doorways and adding ramps for wheelchairs, or modifying the primary living spaces so you don’t have to navigate stairs.
As you age, it’s common for your social circle to get smaller. But maintaining meaningful connections to people is vital, especially for single seniors. Isolation and loneliness can have devastating effects on your mental and physical health. The answers to these questions can help shape your retirement planning.
- Do you have a network of friends and neighbors you can reach out to for help or information and resources?
- Do you currently see friends or family more than once a week?
- Are your social circles shrinking?
- If transportation becomes an issue, how will you get to social events and doctors’ appointments?
- Is your current home’s location a barrier to seeing other people?
Plans for Health Care
The time to make plans for future care is right now – especially as a single person. If you don’t already have a plan and health care resources, you could find yourself scrambling if your health takes an unexpected turn. You also need someone to carry out your wishes if you become incapacitated.
- What will you do in a health emergency? (Whom will you call? Where will you go?)
- Do you have written health directives and powers of attorney so someone can make decisions on your behalf?
- Do you know where you can receive various aging services such as long-term care and rehabilitation?
- Do you know how you’ll pay for health services such as short-term rehab, assisted living, memory care or skilled nursing?
- How can you make sure you’re taking good care of yourself now through proper nutrition, physical fitness and intellectual stimulation?
Senior Living as An Option
Senior living communities have a lot of these elements built into community life. And many single seniors find they’re an ideal solution that meets their retirement needs.
- There are multiple floor plan options available, so you can find an apartment that fits your lifestyle. They’re built for safety as well as comfort, and they’re maintenance-free. See for yourself – start by taking a look at the one-bedroom floor plans we have to offer.
- Social opportunities are plentiful at senior living communities. In addition to community-planned activities and programs, residents frequently start and run clubs, committees and informal events. Plus, you have friendly neighbors close by.
- Communities provide a wealth of opportunities for holistic wellness, which includes fitness, nutrition, intellectual stimulation, and spiritual and emotional support. Off-campus transportation is often provided so you can visit your doctor, dentist, house of worship or favorite shopping center.
- Many communities have a continuum of care on-site, which means you never have to worry about finding care if you need it. It’s often just a few steps away from your residence door. Nurses are available when you need them, too.