Scary Numbers for Single, Childless Seniors
Currently, about one-third of people between the ages of 45 and 63 are single. About 15 percent of women in the 40 to 44 age group have no children.
According to Dr. Maria Torroella Carney, in a presentation at the American Geriatric Society's annual meeting, approximately one-fourth of Americans over the age of 65 lack a family member who can take care of them. Carney refers to them as "elder orphans."
How to Prepare for the Future
Many of the suggestions about how to prepare for the future are the same for single people as they are for those who do have spouses and/or children ... save money, maximize your Social Security, choose a Medicare Advantage or supplement plan, find an appropriate place to live and budget wisely. However, it can be even more important that they follow through on these suggestions if they are single and/or childless. Below are some tips to help you navigate your senior years.
* About two-thirds of seniors will eventually need long-term care. It is wise to either buy long-term care insurance or put aside a large enough nest egg that you will be assured there will be money available for your care when you need it. If you do not qualify for long-term care (and many people do not), you may want to move into a CCRC while you are still ambulatory and do not need assisted living. Many of these appealing communities do not accept people who are already in need of assisted living or skilled nursing. A final way to prepare for long-term care, especially if you are a low-income retiree, is to visit and select a Medicaid Approved nursing home in your community so you know where you would like to live, should the time come that you cannot take care of yourself. Medicaid pays the lifetime cost of nursing home care for low and moderate income retirees with few assets.
* Plan for your future housing needs by buying a home or moving into a CCRC - a Continuous Care Retirement Community. Even if you are not in a CCRC, you may want to move to a location where you can remain independent as long as possible ... with no stairs and within walking distance of doctors and grocery stores or with a convenient bus/train/taxi service. You may also want to see if there is a local grocery store that can deliver your groceries to you if you have surgery or become too frail to do the shopping by yourself. Explore other neighborhood assistance that may be available to you, including Meals on Wheels, taxi vouchers, senior apartment complexes, and senior centers. Keep a list of these services handy so you can contact them easily.
* Prepare for medical emergencies by getting a comprehensive medical insurance plan, usually a Medicare Advantage or supplemental plan, and putting aside additional money to take care of any out-of-pocket expenses you might have as you age.
* Stay connected with other people, both new friends and old friends. Without a spouse or adult children, you may need the assistance of friends from time to time. Socializing with friends also serves to keep you healthy, happy and less likely to decline rapidly.
* Choose a trusted friend or relative to be your proxy. Make sure they know where you keep your important documents. Designate that person as your durable power of attorney for health care decisions, before you begin to lose cognitive function. If you have no one you can trust, contact an elder care attorney for a reference to a professional who can become your legal proxy as you age.
* Make it a priority to stay healthy as long as you can. Eat well and get daily exercise. Work your brain as much as your body. People who do these things and socialize with others tend to age better than those who do not.
* Put together an "In-case of Death" Notebook. What would happen if you were found unconscious in your home by a neighbor, relative or emergency personnel? You should have an easy to find notebook that lists the names of people to contact, physician names, your health insurance carrier information, life insurance policies, religious preferences, funeral instructions and any other information that you believe they would need. My personal notebook even includes a copy of our will and trust, as well as a brochure for our children that explains what needs to be done when someone dies.
If you take these steps, you will know that you have done everything possible to make your life easier as you age. You will also have made things easier for the distant relatives or friends who might be contacted upon your death or serious illness. Otherwise, they may not know what to do or what you would like done, should the time come when it is difficult or impossible for you to make decisions for yourself.
If you are interested in learning more about where to retire, health considerations as you age, financial planning and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.
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