Many seniors rely on their family members for assistance as they grow older. Families can be a great source of social connection and can provide support with money management, healthcare, and activities of daily living. Not everyone can rely on family as they age, though. Maybe you have no remaining relatives, or maybe you’ve chosen to distance yourself from your family for personal reasons. No matter the reason, growing old alone has its unique challenges.
Senior isolation is a serious concern for elder orphans, or older adults without close family or friends. Loneliness takes a major toll on your mental, physical, and cognitive health. However, aging alone doesn’t have to be a negative experience. If you can identify some key sources of support and put measures in place to keep yourself safe, you can make the most of your senior years.
Here Are Seven Tips for Those Who Are Growing Old Alone
1. Make New Social Connections
No one should go through their retirement years without any friends or acquaintances. Even if you love your alone time, spending time with others is important for your health. If you have friends or neighbors in your life, try to maintain contact with them. You don’t have to see them all the time, but checking in once in a while can make a big difference.
You can always find new social outlets, too. Meeting new people may feel challenging as you’re growing older, but your community probably has a wide range of resources. Your local library might offer classes or clubs, and your senior center probably has a variety of activities. Even if you don’t make a new lifelong friend, regular social interaction will help to ward off senior isolation and loneliness.
2. Consider Getting a Pet
Getting a pet may not be the right choice for all elder orphans. If you have the means and desire to care for an animal, though, a pet can be an excellent cure for senior isolation. Pets are a beautiful source of warmth and love, and caring for them brings purpose and structure to your day. It’s not a substitute for human connection, but adopting a pet can greatly improve your quality of life.
3. Ensure Your Home Is Safe
When aging in place, it’s essential that you keep your home safe and accessible. If you don’t have anyone else to rely on, you have to make sure you can complete your daily activities without risk of falling or getting injured.
Simple home modifications like non-slip stair treads, grab bars in the bathroom, and night lights will keep you safe if you’re living alone. Consider enlisting an occupational therapist to offer advice on making your home more accessible. Unfortunately, Original Medicare usually doesn’t cover home modifications. Medicare Advantage plans may cover the cost, though. You could also look into grants from local community organizations.
4. Be Wary of Exploitation
All older adults are at risk of scams and exploitation, but elder orphans may be particularly vulnerable. Scammers and abusers prey on seniors who seem like they lack support. If you’re aging alone, you should always watch out for red flags.
Be extremely skeptical if someone asks for your financial or medical information. If a salesperson tries to sell you something they say will be covered by Medicare, it’s likely a scam. Never give your banking or Medicare numbers to someone over the phone unless you called them first. You can look up business with the Better Business Bureau if you’re not sure whether they’re legitimate or not.
5. Identify a Proxy
Even if you don’t have close relatives, there may be someone in your life you’d trust as your proxy or representative. If you do have a friend, associate, or family member you trust completely, ask them to keep track of your personal information. They should have your address and know where you keep your medications and insurance cards. Consider appointing that person as your healthcare power of attorney, too. This will allow them to make decisions on your behalf if you have severe cognitive decline. If you don’t have anyone to name as a proxy, consider hiring an elder care law attorney to support and defend you when necessary.
6. Enjoy Meaningful Alone Time
Seniors who are aging alone will have more alone time than those who are aging with a spouse or other family. While socializing is always important, making the most of your alone time is also key. When you enjoy the time you spend with yourself, you’re far less likely to struggle with loneliness.
Look into a variety of hobbies to keep your schedule full and your mind active. Many seniors enjoy exercising, gardening, artistic endeavors, cooking, puzzles, or reading. Don’t be afraid to try new experiences, but also lean into your old favorite hobbies that bring you a sense of peace and comfort.
7. Talk to a Counselor
Older adults who live alone have to be especially mindful of their mental health. Senior isolation can have a devastating impact on your quality of life if you’re growing old alone. Loneliness can lead to depression, anxiety, substance abuse, cognitive decline, and many other issues. If you’re worried that loneliness or isolation is affecting your health, senior counseling can help.
Counseling is your opportunity to make a meaningful connection with another person who will listen and empathize with your emotions and experiences. Checking in regularly with a professional can help you keep your mind sharp and prevent harmful mental health symptoms. Your counselor will also work with you to understand how you feel about the aging process and how you can continue to live a peaceful, purposeful, and meaningful life as you grow older.
Blue Moon Senior Counseling provides therapy services for older adults facing isolation, loneliness, depression, and other concerns. If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health, we’re here to help. Please reach out to us today to learn more about our practice.