It’s a thing. And a potential problem. Childless baby boomers who are aging without a spouse or a partner, or who have children more than 500 miles away account for almost 40% of adults over 65. Add the fact that there is a growing shortage of caregivers and you have the perfect storm for a perfect mess.
If solo agers continue to live at home, and most of us will try to do that rather than opt for residential care, we could be facing a variety of problems. It’s not a reassuring picture: medication mismanagement, improper treatment of wounds, isolation and loneliness, poor nutrition, susceptibility to scams are just some of the issues we might potentially face.
Many baby boomers who value their independence or who are not joiners by nature may turn up their noses at residential care. But what if senior living communities went out of their way to attract this population segment?
Experts suggest that they build communities with lots of common spaces and indoor-outdoor areas; lose the pastel look and go modern; create small areas that mimic cul-de-sacs; create units that can be shared by friends/roommates; create spaces for gardening and walking; partner with colleges/universities; provide choices in every arena; and make sure every resident has a health care directive, a will and an estate plan that is updated regularly.
Solo agers need to start thinking about future legal guardianship, to prepare for the day when they are unable to make decisions for themselves. Designating a friend, a relative or a private guardian now is key. The day may come when you’re unable to make that choice.
Boomers are optimists by nature and we’ve got that invulnerability chip on our shoulders. But the reality is we will face the same fates as previous generations…cancer, heart disease, falls, organ failure, dementia/Alzheimer’s, etc. Sorry this is such a downer of a topic, but for solo agers it doesn’t have to be. Making smart choices now and keeping an open mind when it comes to residential living could make living longer into an experience in which we’re living better.
Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. His mystery novel, Head Above Water, is available on Amazon and Kindle. You can also visit his author page here.