How to Prepare for Old Age When You’re Single

If you are single—divorced, widowed, or never married—and do not have a significant other, aging can be challenging.  If you also have no children or children who live far away, you are mostly alone in this challenge.  While having children or a significant other does not automatically guarantee you will be taken care of in your later years, these people are usually the ones who look out for you as you age.  If you are entering the aging process alone, here are a few things to keep in mind.


Act Early

How early you start planning for your later years is often based off your genes and current health conditions.  If you come from a line of ancestors who all lived to be centenarians, you may begin planning your care lather than those expected to have shorter life spans.  Regardless, it really is never too early to start setting aside money for long term care or establishing who your caregivers will be.  Caregivers are important to establish now, even if you are young and healthy, so you can help them act in your best interest.


Find someone you trust to oversee your health

Health care directives make sure you have clear answers to questions such as: who will make sure you are cared for?  Who will make medical decisions for you when you are no longer capable of making them on your own?  Health care directives consist of two things: a living will and a health care proxy.  A living will is a statement that details a person’s desires regarding medical treatment in circumstances where they can no longer express informed consent.  These types of circumstances can include requests to take someone off life support or cease any care that has to do with prolonging the process of dying.  The health care proxy, or medical power of an attorney, is included in the living will.  A health care proxy is someone who will make decisions about your medical care that are not covered in your living will.  They are also in charge of keeping track of your mental and physical health and determining if and when you need to be moved into a long-term care facility.  Usually your children or spouse/significant other will act as your health care proxy.  However, if you are single and childless, it is important to ask someone you trust to act in this position and always have a backup in case anything happens to the original appointee.


Figure out who will handle your finances

Many people assume that estate planning is only for the elderly, but it is never too early to get started.  A power of attorney is an essential part of estate planning—this is the person who will manage your finances, including legal issues, bills, or taxes, once you are no longer to effectively manage these types of things.  The power of attorney should be someone you trust, and if you do not have children of a spouse, you should appoint a close family member or friend.  If this is still not an option for you, you can assign a bank or trust company as trustee.  Martin Shenkman, an estate lawyer from Paramous, New Jersey, says, “You would move your assets to the trust, and the company would eventually take on financial tasks you assign it to, including paying bills and caregivers, processing medical claims, and overseeing your home if you’re hospitalized or in a nursing facility.”  It is also important to assign a system for checks and balances—whether it is taken care of by a trusted person or the bank.  The idea is to ensure as much transparency as possible so that everyone knows what is going on with your finances and acts in your best interest.


Find a place to live and establish a support system

Before you begin to enter the later stages of aging, you want to consider your geographic location.  Many older people tend to move from the suburbs into larger cities where there is good public transit, inexpensive cultural activities, and good health care.  As you age, you may lose the ability to drive due to cognitive decline, so being in an area where everything is within walking distance or there is access to a train or subway is smart.  Wherever you decide to spend the rest of your life, you will want to have established a support team of friends, neighbors, and family members who are always available and willing to help.   It is also recommended that as you age, you enlist the help of professional financial advisors, accountants, or lawyers to help with estate planning and writing a will.  Especially if you are single and childless, finding an area that is senior friendly while you are young will make the moving process a lot less stressful.  Once settled, you can sit back and relax and enjoy your senior years.