Over the next 30 years, approximately 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 every day. The senior population in the United States is expected to expand from 40 million to 80 million, and the picture of this generation will undergo significant changes:
These kinds of numbers resonate especially for women and for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. Women live longer than men and if married are likely to outlive their spouses. LGBT people are four times more likely than their cisgender and heterosexual counterparts to be childless, twice as likely to be living alone, and much more apt to be estranged from their birth families.
A large percentage of Americans will be growing old without family to count on…
It’s inescapable that a large percentage of Americans will be growing old without family to count on for help. If you are among them, it’s important to take steps to ensure that your future needs will be met:
Cultivate a network of friends, neighbors, relatives, and professionals (such as your doctor), including people to contact in an emergency. Review your network from time to time, and remember that these connections can also be developed through volunteering, your place of worship, or a senior center. Help can also be found through member-based support systems, such as the Village to Village Network, which is designed to assist elders to age in place in their communities.
Take a good look at your living space with an eye toward the future. Stairs might not be a problem now, but are bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen, and laundry room accessible? Will you have trouble running errands if your mobility should be challenged? Can potential problems be corrected via ramps, grab bars, and the like, or should you think about relocating? Is it time to put an emergency response system in place?
Legal preparation, preferably from an elder law specialist, is particularly important for those without spouses or children. Who will make decisions about finances or medical care if you are unable to? Do you need to assign powers of attorney or create a revocable living trust? Do you have the money to pay for a senior living facility if you need one? Should you consider a private insurance policy to cover it? (Medicare doesn’t cover long-term care and Medicaid has strict limits for income and assets, so this is a critical issue.) An attorney can help you address these and other practical concerns.
If you’re an animal lover, a pet can provide great companionship and stimulation. Many believe that there are even health benefits, such as stress and blood pressure reduction. Just be sure to choose a pet that suits your personality and physical abilities, and remember that animals require time and financial commitment.
Finally, stay positive. Living alone doesn’t mean being isolated.