No Spouse, No Kids, No Caregiver: How to Prepare to Age Alone

Discussion in 'Group Discussions' started by OckyDub, Aug 7, 2017.

  1. OckyDub

    OckyDub is a Verified MemberOckyDub I gave the Loc'ness monstah about $3.50
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    When Carol Marak was in her 30s, she asked herself whose life she wanted: her brother's – the life of a successful and well-traveled businessman – or his wife's – the life of a woman whose career better accommodated raising three children.

    The answer was a no-brainer: "My brother was in a position I wanted," says Marak, now a 64-year-old editor at SeniorCare.com who lives in Waco, Texas. Although she had been married and divorced earlier in life, at that point she had no kids and "made a very conscious decision" to keep it that way, she says.

    Plenty of Marak's peers did the same thing. According to a 2012 study in The Gerontologist, about one-third of 45- to 63-year-olds are single, most of whom never married or are divorced. That's a whopping 50 percent increase since 1980, the study found. What's more, about 15 percent of 40- to 44-year-old women had no children in 2012 – up from about 10 percent in 1980, U.S. Census data shows. "My career was No. 1 in my life," says Marak, who worked in the technology industry for years.

    But today, Marak and her single, childless contemporaries are facing a repercussion of their decision that never crossed their minds as 30-somethings: "How in the world will we take care of ourselves?" she asks.

    Dr. Maria Torroella Carney, chief of geriatrics and palliative medicine at North Shore-LIJ Health System in New York, is asking the same thing. In research presented this year at The American Geriatric Society's annual meeting, Carney and her colleagues found that nearly one-quarter of Americans over age 65 are or may become physically or socially isolated and lack someone like a family member to care for them. Carney calls them "elder orphans."

    "The risk of potentially finding yourself without a support system – because the majority of care provided as we get older is provided by family – may be increasing," she says.

    The consequences are profound. According to Carney's work, older adults who consider themselves lonely are more likely to have trouble completing daily tasks, experience cognitive decline, develop coronary heart disease and even die. Those who are socially isolated are also at risk for medical complications, mental illness, mobility issues and health care access problems.

    "You could be at a hospital setting at a time of crisis and could delay your treatment or care, and your wishes may not be respected [if you can't communicate them]," says Carney, also an associate professor at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine.

    Take "Mr. HB," a 76-year-old New York man described in Carney's research as "a prototypical elder orphan." After attempting suicide, he arrived at a hospital with cuts on his wrist, bed sores, dehydration, malnutrition and depression. He lived alone and hadn't been in contact with any relatives in over a year. His treatment was complicated, the researchers report, in part because he was too delirious to make clear decisions or understand his options. He wound up at a nursing facility with plans to eventually be placed in long-term care.

    But growing older without kids or a partner doesn't mean you're doomed – just as aging with kids and a partner doesn't mean all's clear. "We're all at risk for becoming isolated and becoming elder orphans," Carney says. You could outlive your spouse or even your children, find yourself living far from your family or wind up in the caretaker role yourself if a family member gets sick. Keep in mind that 69 percent of Americans will need long-term care, even though only 37 percent think they will, according to SeniorCare.com.

    Plus, there's no way around the natural physical and mental declines that come with age. "Everybody has to prepare to live as independently as possible," Carney says. Here's how:

    1. Speak up.

    Marak wishes she had talked more with her friends and colleagues about her decision not to become a mom early on. That may have given her a jump-start on anticipating various problems and developing solutions to growing older while childless. She advises younger generations to discuss their options openly with friends – married and single, men and women – before making a firm decision.

    "We discuss our psychological issues with professionals. We discuss our money strategies with financial experts," Marak says. "Why not talk openly about family concerns and what it means to have or not have children? So many of us go into it with blinders on."

    2. Act early.

    How early you start planning for your future health depends partly on your current condition – and your genes, says Bert Rahl, director of mental health services at the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging. "If your ancestry is that people die early, you have to plan sooner and faster," he says.

    But whether you come from a family of supercentenarians or people who have shorter life spans, it's never too soon to save for long-term care, whether it's by investing in a home, putting aside a stash for medical emergencies or "whatever you can do to have a nest egg," Marak says. "Life is serious, especially when you get old. Don't get to [a point] when you're 60 and now you're having to scramble to catch up."

    Still not motivated? "Everybody wants some control in [their] life," Rahl says. "If you don't plan, what you're choosing to do is cede that control to somebody else – and the likelihood that they're going to have your best interests at heart is a losing proposition."

    3. Make new friends and keep the old.

    Your social connections can help with practical health care needs, like driving you to the doctor when you're unable. But they also do something powerful: keep you alive, research suggests. In a 2012 study of over 2,100 adults age 50 and older, researchers found that the loneliest older adults were nearly twice as likely to die within six years than the least lonely – regardless of their health behaviors or social status.

    Connections can also help ward off depression, which affects nearly 20 percent of the 65-and-older population, according the National Alliance on Mental Illness. "One of the things that keeps people from being depressed is to be connected," Rahl says. "The more social activities you have, the more friends, the more things you can do to keep your body and mind active – that's the best protection you have against mental illness."

    4. Appoint a proxy.

    Who is your most trusted friend or relative? "Identify somebody to help you if you're in a time of crisis, and revisit that periodically over your life," Carney suggests. Make sure that person knows your Social Security number, where you keep your insurance card, which medications you take – "the whole list of things somebody needs to know if they're going to help you," advises Dr. Robert Kane, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center on Aging.

    Before you start losing any cognitive capacities, consider designating that person as your durable power of attorney for health care, or the person who makes health care decisions for you when you're no longer able.

    If no one comes to mind, hire an attorney who specializes in elder care law by asking around for recommendations or searching online for highly rated professionals. Unlike your friends, they have a license to defend and are well-versed in elder care issues. Most of the time, Rahl's found, "they're trustworthy and will do a good job for you."

    5. Consider moving.

    Marak is on a mission: "to create my life where I'm not transportation-dependent," she says. She's looking to move to a more walkable city, perhaps a college town where she's surrounded by young people and can stay engaged with activities like mentoring. She also hopes her future community is filled with other like-minded older adults who can look out for one another. "I want to … set up my life where I'm not living alone and isolated," she says.

    Adjusting your living situation so that you can stay connected to others and get to, say, the grocery store or doctor's office is the right idea, says Carney, who cares for a group of nuns who live communally and has seen other adults create communities that act like "surrogate families," she says. "Think: Where do you want to live? What's most easy? How do you access things? How do you have a support system?"

    6. Live well.

    Marak is lucky: She's always loved eating healthy foods and walking – two ways to stay as healthy as possible at all ages. "Some of the foods that we eat are really, really bad for the body," she says. "That's one of the major causes of chronic conditions – and not exercising."

    Keeping your brain sharp is also critical if you want to be able to make informed decisions about your health care, Rahl says. He suggests doing activities that challenge you – math problems if numbers trip you up, or crossword puzzles if words aren't your forte. "The old adage, 'If you don't use it, you lose it,' is 100 percent correct," he says.
     
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  2. mojoreece

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    This topic really scares me because I really don't know what the future holds for when I reach my golden years. I hope that I have obtained enough wealth to live comfortable and be in my right mind to take care of myself.

    I think marriage would be nice but if it never happens I wont complain about it. I've made the conscious decision to never have kids.

    I just want to travel, be healthy/fit, make lots of money and create great experiences.

    As I start hitting 30, I have become really anxious about being behind where I should be in life compared to my peers; not being strategic enough in my moves; that life is not happening the way I wanted it to and feel like I'm running out of time. :(
     
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  3. Sean P

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    Dude…. You have plenty of time to catch up. We are not all given the same opportunities to advance early in life nor as we make our way as adults. If you missed those early opportunities or certain options present themselves now that weren’t available before, make your move. No matter what, you will be better prepared for the future.

    Our consumer driven society tends to distort the concept of age. Yet, 30 years old is very early in a career/job that is likely to span 35 years or more. As the article makes clear, planning early is key. If you don’t have a work sponsored 401(k), look into a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA. Consistently putting a little money away for retirement can make a big difference. An advanced healthcare directive is also invaluable. As someone who is single with a capital S and is unable to comfortably rely on siblings or nieces and nephews, I have a long-term care policy in addition to the healthcare directive.

    Occasional sacrifices will be required as you seek to put yourself on solid ground for a comfortable and enriching retirement. However, you may not view them as sacrifices once you have achieved your goals. Try not to measure yourself against other people and what they appear to have achieved. They may have started in a much different place than you.
     
    #3 Sean P, Aug 8, 2017
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2017
  4. Winston Smith

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    @Sean P speaks volumes of wisdom, all great points, and you can't emphasize enough to younger people the time value of money and forcing yourself to put in to a 401k if your employer offers it. Keep in mind that politicians, all parties, are kicking the Social Security can down the road (and off the cliff); it's headed for near insolvency. Like lottery tickets, you shouldn't expect SS to be the anchor of your retirement funding/planning. With Baby Boomers and older Gen-Xers entering retirement in large numbers, America is going to have an entitlements problem (too many SS drawing people, not enough younger taxpayers to feed the system). You NEED to start saving now. The good thing about money time-value is that at your age, you can afford to put in way less now and still finish well by the time you DO hit 65.

    Start educating yourself on personal finance. Most Americans, including many so-called advanced degree folk, know zilch about it. The information is everywhere if you avail yourself. Just make sure you get real info, not garbage that sounds good but is actually loony (like Suze Ornan, Boyce Watkins, Dave Ramsey or that "Rich Dad Poor Dad" idiot). These people make money off of other people's' lack of knowledge/willpower but don't give advice that real investment professionals would follow. I always recommended the WSJ paperbacks as a good place to jump in (pick them up at the library instead of buying and save a few bucks)
    The Wall Street Journal. Complete Personal Finance Guidebook (The Wall Street Journal Guidebooks): Jeff D. Opdyke: 9780307336002: Amazon.com: Books

    The Wall Street Journal Guide to Understanding Money and Investing: Kenneth M. Morris, Virginia B. Morris: 9780684869025: Amazon.com: Books

    If you really want to go deep, move on to a Series 7 study guide. This is what people who want to be stock brokers have to take (I sat for the classes but didn't get the license). Even though it's written for potential broker-dealers, reading a Series 7 book will give you a deeper understanding of stocks,bonds, securities, commodities, derivatives, and etc.

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/1119...mmies+2017&dpPl=1&dpID=511nQ7g2r9L&ref=plSrch

    I'll just finish to say don't EMOTIONALLY overthink getting older and it helps not to buy into standard "gay culture" about age. The big gay center in my neck of the woods has gone out of the way to ensure senior initiatives are part of the conversation, especially housing (there's a brand new condo/apartment complex for senior LGBT that's gone up here). By the time most of the CA members (most on the board are 20s/30s) get to retirement age, I expect a variety of housing/care options will be available, including developments catering to senior LGBT.
     
  5. Dreamwalker

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    Retirement Gift #1
    IMG_2907.PNG
    Retirement gift #2
    IMG_2906.PNG
     
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  6. Winston Smith

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    I like your thinking sir! A man with a plan.

    A coworker whose nearing retirement went on an international cruise and said he was surprised at the large number of seniors/retirees. He mentioned many spend a lot of time because of the free medical and food with the cost of the trip. I (only HALF jokingly) said that's a model for a business: Retirement home cruise ships. And when the residents die, you just bury them at sea.

    And naturally, like all great ideas, someone has already thought of it
    Is Cruise Ship Retirement Cheaper Than Assisted Living?
     
  7. SB3

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    I plan on keeping it pushing til I literally can't anymore. Me and my dogs. I'm sooo not worried about what the future holds...
     
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  8. Lancer

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    So when I post about how difficult it is being Gay @Ockydub just ''decides'' to make this post. I am here ocky, why don't you just drag me. lol
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  9. OckyDub

    OckyDub is a Verified MemberOckyDub I gave the Loc'ness monstah about $3.50
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    ...Because many many non-heterosexual men feel this way.
     
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    NO LIES! This summer I have been mostly feeling this way and I always try to have a tough skin about it but sometimes my mind be failing me. Just got to be stronger!!!
    [​IMG]
     
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