Have you heard of the term Elder Orphan? It’s a new way of framing categorizing who are aging alone. I began to think about aging alone after caring for my parents. My mother struggled with heart problems, while my father lived with Alzheimer’s disease. Watching their decline was heartbreaking. It was close to one year after dad’s passing when the question hit me: “Who will care for me?” How to Thrive When Aging Alone
That was 10 years ago. Today, I’m 65.
The U.S. Census Bureau tells us more than 27 percent of people age 65 and over live alone. One reason is because baby boomers have the highest divorce rate and lowest number of children, and as they turn 65, the numbers of those living alone escalate. How to Thrive When Aging Alone
There are thousands of us on our own, and we are in good company. In my “elder orphan” Facebook group, we have over 4,000 members. We face similar challenges, like finding help after surgery or if we’re sick, affordable housing, public transportation, social engagement, isolation, and choosing a health care proxy.
The most affordable living arrangements place us in the suburbs, far from convenient shopping and accessible public transit. It can be stressful, but being fearful exacerbates the problems and leaves us disempowered.
I try to maintain a positive view of being alone. If I feel lonely, I call someone or visit a sibling or friend, have lunch or dinner out, visit the library or attend a class, or join a Meetup group. Other things that help mitigate the fear of being alone:
Push for what is important to you. Be patient and don’t make demands. Ask for what you want but give to yourself first; don’t rely on another person to make you happy. A friend once told me, “A man is not a plan!” Funny, right? But how many of us hold out for a partner to be the knight in shining armor or a nurse with a purse? How to Thrive When Aging Alone
Mistakes don’t make you or me right or wrong — they make us human. When disturbing thoughts of your mistakes disrupt your peace of mind, take a moment to relax and breathe. Allow the disturbance to move through and release once and for all.
Are you ready to accept and celebrate you? Doing so will change your life. When an individual gives up criticism, a sense of compassion fills the gap. It’s remarkable.
Learning my lessons has me looking forward to the future. It’s my hope and wish that you find courage and resolve as you look to make being alone a blessing.