ONE: BUILD A COMMUNITY
People who don’t expand their social networks can find themselves isolated and lonely as friends die or move closer to their grandkids. Strengthening ties with relatives and making new friends, particularly younger ones, can counteract that trend. So can cultivating relationships with neighbors, coffee shop buddies and other acquaintances.
TWO: CHOOSE YOUR HOME CAREFULLY
Your current home may not be the ideal place to grow older, especially if you won’t have many opportunities to socialize after you stop driving. But not everyone wants or can afford 55-plus developments, assisted living or continuing care retirement communities.
Some communities have organized “villages,” which are nonprofit associations typically created and staffed by residents of a neighborhood to provide services such as transportation and access to vetted service providers. “Co-housing,” where people build clusters of homes around shared spaces, is another model available in some cities.
Or you could look for “naturally occurring retirement communities” where residents socialize and informally look out for each other. Other possibilities include sharing a place with other solo agers — “Golden Girls” style — or renting a room to a younger person.
THREE: ENLIST OR HIRE YOUR FUTURE GUARDIANS
Estate planning attorneys recommend all adults have documents in place that allow someone else to make decisions should they become incapacitated. These documents include powers of attorney for finances and for health care. (The medical power of attorney may also be called an advanced health care directive). Without this paperwork, solo agers could become wards of the court with strangers making decisions for them, Geber says.
Finding someone trustworthy to take over can be a challenge. A responsible younger friend or relative may be one option. People may be able to contract with professional guardians. An estate planning attorney or financial planner may be able to put you in touch with the appropriate professional.
Geber urges solo agers to take care of these tasks without delay. A health crisis or other disaster could upend their lives and they won’t have an adult child to help sort things out.
“The biggest problem I see for solo agers and all baby boomers is the denial” of what aging can bring, Geber says. “Open your eyes, do some planning.”