Aging in Place Solo

Solo Aging in place

Those who fly solo have the strongest wings.


Aging in Place

The quote above is inspiring to read—but may be more challenging to live, especially as we age. The ill-effects of isolation on older adults is well established and has been termed by some “the new smoking.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Loneliness and Social Isolation Linked to Serious Health Conditions:

  • Social isolation significantly increased a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, a risk that may rival those of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity.
  • Social isolation was associated with about a 50% percent increased risk of dementia.
  • Poor social relationships (characterized by social isolation or loneliness) were associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke.
  • Loneliness was associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide.
  • Loneliness among heart failure patients was associated with a nearly 4 times increased risk of death, 68% increased risk of hospitalization, and 57% increased risk of emergency department visits.

Increasing evidence also suggests that the issues associated with isolation are even more pronounced for vulnerable older adults in communities associated with being an immigrant; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT), and minorities (more research is needed to determine risks, impacts, and appropriate actions needed).

Elder Orphans and Entropy Risk

A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that in the U.S., 27% of adults 60 and older live alone. Typically, individuals fall into one of several categories: Single, widowed, never married, no adult children. This social phenomenon is so pervasive that it has earned the term “Elder Orphans.” Carol Marak, a colleague in the field of gerontology, has started a Facebook group of over 9 thousand members who fall into one of those groups–all aging in place alone. The site is moderated, and they share stories, provide support, and work towards making solo aging at home a less isolating experience.

Dr. Zach Bush, in a recent interview noted; “Any system put into isolation increases entropy and chaos.” Translation, entropy is the second law of thermodynamics and states that in nature systems will go from order to disorder if left alone. For example, think of yardwork, if left alone it turns into weeds and over-growth. The way to stave off entropy (temporarily) is with energy input and a plan. So, it is inspiring to think of having “strong wings” required to fly solo, but in reality, what these increasing numbers of solo-agers will need to counter the entropy of isolation is ENERGY + PLANNING.

The Plan for Solo Aging in Place

In an article titled: Lola Waterman Esq. on Guidelines for Aging in Place, the author provides a practical list on planning for solo aging in place. I will provide highlights from her suggestions. I suggest you contact her for questions (see disclaimer below).

Step One: Have an Estate Plan

Estate planning portfolio should minimally include a health care proxy, power of attorney, DNI/DNR form, will, and living will. Other considerations to take into account when planning for the future include making decisions about the management of activities of daily living such as paying bills, cooking, shopping, taking medication, and cleaning; assessing whether to begin Medicaid planning to help cover long-term care costs; making and attending doctor’s appointments; coping with isolation and minimizing the risk of elder abuse; transportation, among other matters.

Step Two: Build Social Capital

In devising your plan, you may want to leave someone you trust with a spare set of house keys; consider your options for in-home care and arrange for homecare services; investigate alternative housing options for when you are no longer able to live alone; establish safety precautions against wandering, falling, and driving; set up direct deposit into your bank account and automated payments for certain bills; set up food delivery services; research your eligibility for public benefits that could assist with housing expenses, transportation, etc. You should actively seek to build a strong support system consisting of trusted family members, medical professionals, friends in the community and neighbors. Keep the lines of communication open, stay connected, and share information about your condition.

Lola says create a plan, put it in writing, communicate it with your support system, and revise it, as necessary. It will not only empower you to take control of your future but will ensure you maintain your independence for as long as possible. Going through these steps now will be much easier than doing it later when you may no longer have the capacity or wherewithal. Isolationism often leaves older adults vulnerable, while establishing a plan, staying connected, and having a strong support system will ensure participation in your own end of life decisions, instead of leaving it up to other family members, the court, or predators.

Her advice is solid and a good place to start. There is much talk about aging in place and maintaining one’s independence—when in fact a successful aging in place strategy requires some level of inter-dependence, EVEN FOR SOLO AGERS. It will take ENERGY to accomplish, but Lola has provided a template, scaffolding if you will, on which to build your future your way.

You got this!


Elder Orphans Facebook:

Pew Research

Lola Waterman, Esq. The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice and is for general informational purposes only. Readers of this article should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. The views expressed in this article are those of the individual author writing in her individual capacity only. Contact: [email protected]


Also see:

Aging in Place Technology Solutions for Isolation:

Key take-a-way: Isolation leads to increased entropy.


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