The famous poet, Robert Browning, wrote, “Grow old with me! The best is yet to be…” It was a fantasy of mine years ago to have a life partner, but have accepted the contrary years ago.
Browning's message speaks to my primal instinct for companionship as I grow older; however, the reality is that many seniors like me will spend the advanced years without a life partner. But just because I have no partner, it doesn't mean I have to be alone.
Research points out how gender, ethnicity, disability, socioeconomic status, and marital status influence who is aging alone in the U.S. It appears gender and marital status serves as a double whammy for me and maybe for you.
In 2017, 13.8 million or 28% non-institutionalized older adults were living alone in the United States —9.3 million are women (Administration for Community Living, 2017). Older women live alone at more than double the rates of their male counterparts, affecting almost half of women over the age of 75.
In a U.S. Census Bureau Annual Social and Economic Supplement, 2018, widows (8.9 million) outnumbered widowers (2.5 million.) Older adults who live alone are more than three times more likely to live in poverty than those living with family, 17.3% vs. 5.3%, respectively.
The data shows no downward trend -- it's on the rise. And what I've learned, if I am not prepared, or at a minimum, to become aware of what's ahead, the latter years will be a mess.
It's taken a lot of consideration on my part as what to do and how to prepare. It began during the family caregiving days, the time my parents needed a lot of help.
That was my teacher... their aging.
I realized quickly how much time, resources, and energy elder care requires. Rarely was a downtime for the caregivers, my two sisters and me. It forced me to looked hard at reality, since I don't have what my parents had; three daughters. It was scary and that was ten years ago.
And after much research and thinking about my options, how I 'should' live, how best to prepare, I decided that "I can do this." Taking all I experienced with my older relatives, and analyzing each challenge, I felt it was possible to gain and keep some control as older age came crawling faster.
The top challenges in agingHealth and ExerciseFor me, health was my first to tackle. Without good health and an abled body, older age will surely be unsettling.
Top priority was good food, then exercise. No matter how much I loved ice cream, steak, and french fries, they had to go, even hamburgers. Moderation was not an option. Watching my Mother's heart decline motivated the decision.
Of course, watching the documentary, Forks Over Knives, drove it home.
Exercise is my friend and savior. Without it, I cannot imagine what my health would be. Strenuous exercise is not my thing, but walking a distance, each day is.
Can't say this is an easy one but it's equally significant, and why I'm frugal. Save, save, save, is my motto. And don't spend, don't spend, don't spend is my mantra. (LOL)
The biggest expense in my budget, other than house and utilities, is food, healthy food. And that's where the entertainment budget goes... to healthy food.
Equally significant. If one has minimal support or a smaller circle of friends, who will fill the gap where the family you don't have leaves empty?
Volunteering and helping out in social circles and organizations keeps my friendships growing. Not trying to brag, but I got a lot of friends, and could have more if there were more time. I feel lucky and grateful. Thank you for very much.
And what's so wonderful about it is if a need came up, someone would have my back.
But, it takes effort. Especially in the giving department. The giving of my time and helping out (effort.)
Housing This is where I shine. I consciously chose, and it took years to fruition, but it happened. And I believe it can happen for you too.
It takes effort deciding how, where, and all the logistics of the place that serves you.
Again, if I can (finally) move to a walkable location, where I'm surrounded by friendly neighbors willing to help at the drop of a hat, you can have the lifestyle that works for you.
Start by getting clear on how you want to live.. the space and location.
Advance Care PlanningThis section of an aging plan is all about the future health care.
It clearly directs the healthcare team when and if I am not in a position to speak for myself and to communicate my choices and wishes. The decisions are based on the personal values, preferences, and discussions I had with close friends and family.
This one can be complex. But no worries, I got your back. More on that later.