Retirement Tips for Seniors who Live Alone

Retirement Tips for Seniors who Live Alone

According to an article in the New York Times, 36% of American households are comprised of a single individual aged 50 or older. That’s 26 million American seniors who live on their own. There could be many reasons for this boom in seniors living alone, including changes in marriage and relationship norms; these individuals are now more likely than generations past to be divorced, separated, or chose to remain single. And since women tend to live longer than men, it’s no surprise that 60% of seniors living alone are women.

While you might take extra steps to stay safe and secure in your home when you live on your own, such as considering a personal emergency alert system with fall detection for your safety and peace of mind, there are other things you can do to help ensure that your retirement is as good as it can be. Let’s look at some of the challenges of living alone as well as some solutions to manage them.

The Unique Challenges of Seniors Living Alone

Here are some of the problems seniors living alone might face:

1. Greater chance of social isolation

Social isolation can be a devastating situation for seniors. The CDC points out that loneliness introduces serious health risks for the elderly, including a 50% increased risk of dementia, a 29% increased risk of heart disease, and a 32% higher risk of stroke. In addition, social isolation is a strong driver of depression and anxiety.1

Social isolation is more likely to occur if you don’t have a spouse or children, as these individuals can often encourage each other to get out of the house and stay active, in addition to being excellent companions themselves. That’s why it’s so important for those who live alone to deliberately reach out to others, such as making new friends, joining clubs, or saying hello to the neighbors.

2. Challenges with managing a household and maintaining a home

Over 90% of seniors want to age in place, according to AARP. You can make that happen for you, but you need to start by looking at how feasible it is to continue living in your current home under your current conditions.

For instance, if you have a two-story home, keep in mind that eventually you might have difficulty climbing the stairs. That could mean that you’ll need a stair lift or other aging in place solution for the home that will allow you to keep full access to your space. Or it might mean that you choose to downsize to a one-story home.

Another example is avoiding falls. In the bathroom, where many falls can lead to head injuries, using a walk-in tub and grab bar is a good idea. These modifications cost money, so make sure to have a budget in place. An affordable personal security option is a medical alert system, which summons help at the press of a button in any type of emergency.

In addition, consider what it will take to maintain your home. Managing a home can be a physical challenge for anyone of any age. From cleaning out gutters to mopping the floors, those with physical limitations might find it impossible to handle all the work on their own. Have a plan in place to pay for the help you will need to keep your home in good shape, as well as money put away for unexpected repairs.

If you can pay off your house before you retire, that’s one less thing to worry about.

3. Having only one set of assets and resources

In a two-party household, there are often other assets and resources beyond what you contribute to your financial life. There can be a spouse’s income, social security, a pension, retirement funds pooled together, and savings that build up quickly when two people are contributing. But when you are single, the resources you have to work with are often less robust.

It’s incredibly important for a single person to plan well for their retirement. This means maxing out their 401K or IRA options, working with a financial advisor to figure out your retirement goals, downsizing to a smaller home or more affordable area, or even choosing to take on an additional part-time job to provide a financial cushion.

4. Lack of a partner-advocate for estate planning

Everyone should have a living will and power of attorney document that sets forth what they want to happen if they can’t advocate for themselves. In most cases, that power of attorney is a spouse or close next of kin. But what if you don’t have someone like that in your life? Talk with your attorney about the options you might have.

You will also need to consider how to handle your financial affairs. Discussing your options with an attorney, tax professional, and social worker is a great way to ensure that you have all the facts laid out before you to assist you with making a decision.

5. No partner to care for them in their golden years

Did you know that you have about a 70% chance of needing help with your long-term health needs in the future? While most elderly adults only need it for a few years, one in five seniors will need long-term care for five years or more.

Those who are still working will likely have short-term and long-term disability benefits that can help if they wind up needing care while they are still employed. But what happens when you retire? Now is the time to engage with an insurance provider for long-term care insurance, thus locking in the rates before you become ineligible or the cost is too expensive.

This is also a great reason to consider affordable senior life-saving alert systems. A medical alarm pendant or wristband can give you the opportunity to summon help the moment an emergency occurs. Having an accident, suffering a fall, or dealing with any sort of emergency can be fraught with worry and danger if you are at home alone. A medical alert watch or pendant alleviates that problem as it supplies 24/7 emergency back-up.

Tips for Retiring as a Single Senior

·         Know your finances. Learn how to budget and keep track of your income and expenses. Know what you pay for housing and utilities, groceries, medical care, transportation, and more. Figure out where your retirement accounts are and what’s in them. Relying solely on social security often doesn’t provide enough funds to make ends meet.

·         Choose where you retire. Just because you’ve lived in the same place for a very long time doesn’t mean you must stay there during your golden years. This can mean anything from moving to a different home to moving out of state to find a more affordable area. For those living alone, a dedicated retirement community can be a great way to maintain your own home and independence while building a good social circle.

·         Consider your healthcare. While it’s great to be independent in all aspects of your life, sometimes you might need some help. That is especially true if you are sick. Telehealth options are great, and many pharmacies deliver, but you should have a support system in place if you can’t drive yourself to the doctor or you need help while recovering from surgery. Medical alert technology can literally be a life-saver in the event of an emergency, but you should also have a plan in place for those times that aren’t life-threatening but require extended help.

·         Plan for long-term needs. Start planning for your long-term care now, while you are healthy, rather than wait for the day when you suddenly aren’t. Long-term care insurance is an excellent idea. Remember that Medicare doesn’t cover long-term care, so the only safety net you have is the one you choose to create for yourself.[2]

·         Consider a pet. Pets can provide solid companionship and a sense of purpose, and depending upon the pet, an opportunity to get fresh air, exercise, and socialization with others. Numerous studies have found that pets can help you live longer.[3] Whether you have a gorgeous bird that chats in their own special way throughout the day or a dog that gets you up and moving outside, pets can change your life in many good ways. Those who live alone should take some precautions, however, such as planning for who will care for their pets if they should get injured or go into the hospital. It’s also a good idea to have an emergency response system for seniors handy if you have a pet in the house. As delightful as pets are, some can be a trip hazard.

·         Volunteer when you can. Avoid social isolation while doing something good for others – what’s not to love? Volunteering for causes you believe in can boost your spirits, alleviate loneliness, and give you a sense of purpose. You can also meet new people, which is a boon to your friend circle.

Retiring on your own can be a wonderful thing. You can have the ultimate freedom to do as you please, including traveling the world and making new friends along the way. Plan for the joy of your golden years right now, before you reach retirement age, and enjoy the freedom!