Solo Run: Aging On Your Own
Solo Run: Aging On Your Own
September 15, 2021
While for some of us, the thought of growing older without having a spouse or adult children might be anxiety-provoking, for others, that’s just a normal way of life and may even be a preferable way of aging. Certainly, in this generation of older adults, who have had access to birth control, abortion, and divorce (unlike previous generations), the possibility of growing older without a biological family has necessitated a different way of thinking about long term care, support systems, and planning in advance for major life decisions. And lest you think such “solo agers” are depressed or dispirited about what the future may hold for them, a recent report from AARP finds that while there are serious considerations when aging alone (maintaining independence, financial security, adequate support systems, to name a few), the overwhelming majority of those surveyed report feeling optimistic and have an abundance of friendships to fill in any gaps due to the lack of family. That’s important to understand given that this population is growing. In fact, in a new report from the US Census Bureau, it was documented that 1 in 6 adults over the age of 55 has no biological children. For previous agebuzz posts on “solo” agers, click here.
There are, however, important considerations and challenges to plan for when one is aging alone, and there are plenty of resources to help you think things through if you find yourself in this situation now or can foresee this in your future. Two women, in particular, are known to be experts on solo aging and both offer a wealth of recommendations and resources to help you plan. Carol Marak, an experienced family caregiver and herself a solo ager, began her “Elder Orphan” Facebook group in 2016 to create a community of solo agers who could share information and support each other. She has since gone on to become a coach, advocate, and even a soon-to-be-published author of a book (Solo and Smart), and she has a YouTube Channel which provides information and support for those who are aging solo. You may also want to check out a recent article she wrote detailing some of the digital options available to help solo agers meet and learn from others.
The other solo aging expert to learn about is Sara Zeff Geber, Ph.D., a nationally renowned scholar and writer on the topic, and author of the book, Essential Retirement Planning for Solo Agers. She also has useful resources on her website about finances and other aspects of planning. And speaking of planning, many retirement and aging experts underscore the value and necessity of planning in advance when you’re aging on your own. For example, a recent post in Kiplinger recommends 4 specific types of planning for those of you solo aging: Understand your physical health and what the future holds; identify who in your social network can step in and help make decisions for you if you become unable; understand the benefits and burdens of different senior housing options; find out what’s going to be fulfilling to occupy your later years and put yourself on that path. In another article in Forbes, Dr. Geber talks about what to do now in order to thrive in the years ahead, especially since it’s likely you’ll need some help in areas of housing, health, and a support network. And not to be grim, but there’s even a useful article in Next Avenue about funeral planning if you’re a solo ager. As Oscar Wilde once said, “With age comes wisdom but sometimes age comes alone.” So if you find yourself aging alone, the wise path is to plan ahead.