Aging Solo: Things To Consider About Living Alone As You Grow Old.

No one likes to think about being a widow or a widower or, for that matter, a divorcee, but the facts are that virtually all couples will lose one spouse first, and 50% of the population will get divorced.

Knowing these facts should prompt elders to plan for the eventuality, which might mean downsizing and creating a safe and secure space for the spouse who is left alone. It is time to consider and investigate senior housing, especially Independent Living. The importance of socialization and human interaction cannot be overestimated! 

Independent Living For Seniors in Kansas City, MO, and Topeka, KS

In the News:

The summer 2023 edition of Generations Journal entitled ‘Solo Aging’ reports, “We live in a world in which adults who are not partnered and are not parents are more likely to live alone than not. For older adults, according to the 2021 Profile of Older Americans, about 27% lived alone (5 million men, 9.7 million women). The proportion living alone increases with advanced age for both men and women. Among women aged 75 and older, for example, 42% lived alone.” 

Interestingly, counties with the highest percentages of households with one person aged 65 or over living alone were concentrated in the central Midwest.

Although Solo Aging is typically defined as an individual with no partner or children, often, even when there are children, they do not live in proximity, are incapable, or are estranged in some way. Having children is not the answer to Solo Aging. 

The conversation about living alone must happen long before it becomes a reality. Each individual needs to have a plan that prepares for that eventuality. 

What are the considerations for seniors to think about?

  • Finances:

The first factor that comes to mind is finances. When Seniors are widowed, there is an immediate loss of one social security paycheck. So monthly income is automatically reduced. Since women statistically live longer, this usually affects the wife. If there are pensions or military benefits that are assigned to the husband, those may be lost or reduced. No matter the situation, a solid understanding of these details is imperative. 

Wills, estates, funeral arrangements, insurance policies, living will documents, etc., need to be a part of planning for the future. 

The solo spouse needs a clear understanding of their financial means. Nothing is sadder than when a spouse passes, and the widow has no knowledge of their finances, and the spouse failed to share bank statements, savings information, or even passcodes to online banking. Everyone should have a backup plan. Often it can be an adult child, but if there are no children, there needs to be someone named as trustee or Durable Power of Attorney.

These are matters that need to be settled between spouses or partners and/or their extended families. 

Over the years, hundreds of calls come into the McCrite Plaza office with the same confusion. It usually comes from an adult child desperately trying to help a parent who needs to move to senior housing quickly. The conversation typically starts with, “My mom has Medicare Insurance; will that pay for her housing?” They are always shocked when they discover that Medicare is not insurance that will pay the cost of housing. At that point, it becomes apparent that preplanning was not in place, and there is much work to be done. 

  • Network Support: Who do seniors call when they need help?

Another essential consideration is what kind of support does the solo ager have? The adage that ‘No man is an island’ is true. Whether the individual chooses to live alone and is happy being solo, there is an absolute need for a network of people to support them. It takes more than doctors; it requires neighbors or friends to check in regularly to assure the solo ager is safe. As advanced age becomes a reality, the probability of a fall or emergency illness grows, and it is imperative to have a reliable support system.

In an article titled “5 Strategies for Growing Old and Alone that Actually Work” by Sally Abrahms from the Association of Long-Term Planning, several methods are suggested to plan for the future if you are single and childless. She says, “A considerable number of Americans are expected to grow old alone, as indicated by various statistics. 

  • The number of older adults 45-54 who never married increased by 300% between 1986 and 2009.
  • The divorce rate for people who are 50+ doubled between 1990 and 2010.
  • Baby boomers will be the most likely to be divorced.
  • 1 in 3 baby boomers is single.
  • Single baby boomers usually live alone.

It’s important to create a plan for how you want to live your life in 5 or 10 years. Identifying people who can be your support system is imperative to make sure that you have someone to call or rely on when you’re sick, or you need assistance with something. Consulting a professional is also recommended to make sure that you have all the legal documents you need and that you are financially ready for expenses like healthcare or long-term care.”

  • Socialization For Seniors:

Beyond needing someone to call when you’re not feeling well or in an emergency, there is much evidence that having a circle of friends and neighbors is essential to good health. Socialization is important!

Isolation and loneliness are epidemic in the US. On May 3, 2023, the Surgeon General – America’s doctor – raised the alarm about the devastating impact of the epidemic of loneliness and isolation in the United States. The announcement read, “Today, United States Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy released a new Surgeon General Advisory calling attention to the public health crisis of loneliness, isolation, and lack of connection in our country. Even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately half of U.S. adults reported experiencing measurable levels of loneliness. Disconnection fundamentally affects our mental, physical, and societal health. In fact, loneliness and isolation increase the risk for individuals to develop mental health challenges in their lives, and lacking connection can increase the risk for premature death to levels comparable to smoking daily.”

Another consideration is:

  • Where seniors live can make the biggest difference.

Living alone may be a reality, but where that takes place is a different issue. Community is so important. If the family is not nearby or available to provide socialization, it is essential to consider living in Senior Housing. There are opportunities like 55+ housing, Independent Living, Assisted Living, and Skilled Care, and McCrite Plaza offers all of the above on one campus. 

Although aging in place is a current trend in the US, it is more difficult for solo agers. Choosing a retirement community may be one of the best ways to deal with the isolation of being single.

Community living supplies activities, social involvement, opportunities for lifelong learning, entertainment, arts and crafts, and outings that would not otherwise be available living alone. Basic needs like meals, housekeeping, and maintenance are at your fingertips. 

Emergency call systems are literally life savers.  Medical help is always available. 

Another strategy to prepare for aging alone is to move into housing as a couple so that when and if a spouse dies, the living spouse is already provided for. This is a sensible and considerate move for couples. Taking care of each other now to provide security and safety for the remaining spouse in the future.

McCrite Plaza has had its Commitment to Couple policy in place for 50 years. They knew it was important to keep couples together for their lifetime. Old age is no time to separate spouses that have supported each other for a lifetime. Considerations are made to ensure apartments are large enough for couples, and even if one or the other needs advanced care, they will share the same space or remain on the same campus to be close to each other.

Jane and her husband came to McCrite Plaza together in a large two-bedroom apartment. They loved their independent space and decorated it just like home. After three years, Craig needed more and more help which McCrite provided with Home Care right in their apartment. When Craig needed to have Assisted Living full-time, they both moved to a different area on campus but always remained together. It was just a change of scenery, but all their friends and activities remained the same for Jane. When Craig passed away, Jane moved to a one-bedroom apartment back in Independent Living with help from the staff. The important thing was that she never felt alone or isolated. Jane became a solo ager but was never alone. She continued participating in her favorite activities and spending time with her friends. Although she grieved, she had all the support she needed. They had wisely planned for this eventuality. 

  • The key for seniors is to plan ahead.

Planning to be a solo ager seems morbid, but it is imperative to think through what it would mean for your situation. Planning reduces worry and concern. The good news is that it may never happen, but knowing you have a backup plan is key.

We invite you to come for a tour, look at McCrite Plaza in Kansas City or Topeka, and envision what life would be like living in the community if you were alone. We believe you’ll find a community with warmth and friendliness that can become home for you!

Call us in Briarcliff-Kansas City at (816) 888-7930 or (785) 267-2960 in Topeka, or complete the contact form to schedule a tour and see everything available to make life exciting for your future!

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