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 double, from 40 million to 80 million. This generation will look significantly different from earlier generations:
These kinds of numbers resonate especially for women and for the 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 live alone, and much more apt to be estranged from their birth families.
A large percentage of Americans will grow old without family to count on…
A large percentage of Americans are growing old without family to count on for help. Are you among them? Take steps to ensure that your future needs will be met:
Cultivate a network of friends, neighbors, relatives, and professionals (such as your doctor). These connections can be developed through volunteering, your place of worship, or a senior center. Review your network from time to time. And remember that you can also find help through member-based support systems. The Village to Village Network, for example, assists elders 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 will you have trouble running errands if your mobility changes? What about bathrooms? Can potential problems be corrected or should you think about moving? What about putting 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 long-term care? 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.) An attorney can help you address these and other practical concerns.
If you’re an animal lover, a pet can provide great company. Pets may also provide health benefits, such as stress and blood pressure reduction. Just be sure to choose a pet that suits your personality and physical abilities. Animals require time and financial commitment.
Finally, stay positive. Living alone doesn’t mean being isolated.
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