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In the United States, nearly a quarter of adults over the age of 65 are both childless and single. In other developed nations, the statistics are similar. These seniors are colloquially known as “elder orphans.” Seniors who are estranged from their families or may become widowed are at risk for becoming elder orphans as well.
Growing old without supportive kin is a daunting prospect. Adequate planning and foresight, however, can allow you to age independently without fearing for your future. By taking the following steps today, you can avoid the potential challenges of facing your twilight years as an elder orphan.
Stay Active in Your Community
Begin, or continue to be, an active member of your local community. Consider volunteering for a cause that you care about, participating in a religious organization, or working part-time at a job you enjoy. Though having strong and healthy social connections is crucial for all, it is doubly important for seniors without familial support. These friends may become the people you rely on when you need a helping hand.
Deal With Your Documents
Though dealing with paperwork is never fun, it is best to get your documents in order while you are in good mental and physical health. Organize your financial documents and consolidate your accounts. When possible, set up automated payments, too. Write down all of the accounts you have and the associated passwords in case someone else needs to oversee these transactions in the future. Consult a financial advisor to discuss any other concerns you may have.
Be sure to get the rest of your documents in order, too. Set up an appointment with an elder law attorney to assist you in drawing up a will or a living trust. Be sure to re-examine these documents on an annual basis to ensure that they are up-to-date.
Pick a Healthcare Surrogate
An elder law attorney can also help you create a healthcare proxy, a document that designates an agent for managing healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to do so. Before drawing up a healthcare proxy, however, it is important to choose a loving and trustworthy surrogate decision-maker. If you do not have a spouse, sibling, or child to turn to, consider selecting a close friend as your agent. Discuss your end-of-life decisions as well as other important subjects, like your faith and personal values, with your chosen surrogate.
It is important that you choose a surrogate whom you can wholeheartedly trust. Can you rely on this individual to make the appropriate end-of-life decisions for you, rather than chasing your remaining assets? By making this decision early on, you can rest assured that your health will continue to be properly managed.
Consider Your Living Situation
If you’re at risk for becoming an elder orphan, research living situations that may make your daily life easier and more socially engaging. If you live in an isolated area or are stuck in a quiet suburb, consider moving to a community that is more transportation-friendly and easily walkable. Those seeking a friendly community may wish to consider communal living concepts, such as collaborative housing. You can choose to live in an apartment with other senior friends, for instance, or seek out a shared residence that houses children, adults, and other seniors. By becoming a part of a vibrant social community, you can avoid the pitfalls of social isolation.
Save Your Money
Potential elder orphans will need to consider the fact that they may someday need someone to take care of them. As caregiver services are often costly, it is important to set aside savings for the future. You may need to hire a caregiver who can drive you around, prepare your meals, clean your home, or help you with daily tasks, for instance. Begin setting aside funds today.
“Adopt” A Family
Another potential remedy for the challenges of aging without kin is to find and “adopt” a trusting family. Perhaps you’ve become close with a younger friend and his or her family. In exchange for caring for you in your old age, you may reach an agreement to bequeath your assets to this “adopted” family. Though such an arrangement naturally requires a great deal of cooperation and trust, it is also among the best ways to receive loving, authentic support during your later years.
By planning for your golden years early, you can avoid the challenges of aging without familial support. Stay active in your local community and research living situations that will better suit your needs as you age. Save money and get all of your paperwork in order. By addressing these issues today, you can set yourself up for a secure and content future.
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