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Solo Agers are older adults that are making decisions about their future independently. You might be a solo ager if you are…
- An individual or couple without children
- An individual who never married or had children
- An individual living alone since the divorce or death of a partner
- An individual or couple whose children or relatives live far away or are estranged
It is important to understand solo aging because many older adults fall into this category, and many more will become solo agers in the future. Solo aging can be full of joys and assets, but early planning is crucial to maintain choice, independence, and satisfaction throughout later life. This means planning so that your home, finances, medical team, and social community are set up for aging well.
- Solo Aging Fact Sheet
- Some helpful resources for understanding solo aging:
- Solo Agers are Optimistic About Quality of Life
- Census Figures Show that More Adults will be Aging Solo
- Aging Solo, Okay I don’t have a child to help me but I do have a plan
- Solo Aging
- Solo Agers, Plan Now to Thrive Later
- Solo Aging, A Discussion with Carol Marak (Video)
- Solo Agers: Attitude and Experiences
One of the most important things you can do as a solo ager is to be the “CEO” of your own aging process. This means putting together a board of advisors that are there to listen and assist you as you make decisions. Some good things to think about are legal and financial advising, home renovations for safely aging in place, creating medical directives, building social networks, and identifying your caregiving team before a crisis. We’ve listed some helpful resources below.
Solo and Smart by Carol Marek
Essential Retirement Planning for Solo Agers by Sara Geber
Finding Local Resources
Orange County Department on Aging
- The Dept on Aging has an Aging Transitions Team that specializes in providing guidance for the aging process as well as a helpline. They also run the Senior Centers for Orange County and coordinate several volunteer activities to join or benefit from. Click here to go to their website.
North Carolina Senior Care Council
- NCSCC has exhaustive lists of businesses and providers with specific services for older adults across North Carolina. Most resources can be broken down by location to find them near you. Click here to go to their website.
North Carolina Aging and Adult Services
- North Carolina Aging and Adult Services has a variety of resources to point you in the right direction. Click here to go to their website.
Hear about Orange County community members’ experiences with Solo Aging.
- Jeanette – I am a dedicated Solo Ager. I am gay and although I have had a few serious partners in my life, I prefer to live alone and navigate my life without interference. I do not have children or any family closer than California, but I’m devoted to my three dogs. I enjoy the company of a couple trusted friends who I see for dinner every other week or so. They always include me in their holiday gatherings, which I appreciate because holidays can be one time when I feel lonely. I retired a few years ago but now I’m back working 1-2 days/ week. I’m 69. When I recently had a major surgery, my two friends tapped their friends to form a care team. Working together, we figured out 3 weeks of dog care, meal prep, and caregiving shifts in just a couple hours. The recovery plan went off without a hitch. I feel like life usually works out just fine….so far so good!
- Ann — I’ve been in and out of solo aging. I was divorced in my early 40s, remarried in my late 40s and my second husband died in my late 50s which was 7 years ago. I was not able to have children and did not adopt a child. I don’t think I will be remarried or partnered so I am firmly in the solo aging camp. I have one brother in NY that I see a few times a year. I love charting my own course and spending lots of time with close friends. I hate being alone as much as I am, especially during the pandemic. My best strategy for dealing with being a solo ager is to nurture my friendships and constantly make new friends to continue to expand my “family of choice.”
- Jay – I consider myself a solo ager. I’ve been living on my own since my last partner and I went separate ways. I really don’t have any family left that I’m close to. However, I have a great circle of friends and we look out for one another. We watch each other’s pets when one of us is out of town or just check-in every now and then. I’m happy being on my own. I do miss family get-togethers at the holidays but find that I’m often invited over to see friends at the holidays. It helps if you invite your friends over too. It is harder now with Covid concerns. The warmer weather is better for getting together when we can be outdoors. Video chats and zoom are not the same.
- Sandy – An acquaintance of mine talked about her experiences “Navigating the Holidays” as a Solo Ager. She had a delightful month of December and was feeling happy, rested, and ready for the New Year. I knew she lived alone, did not have children or any close family so I was interested in her experiences. She reported that she avoided all of the holiday bedlam and stressors her ‘couple friends’ were describing. She planned what she wanted to do, when, and with whom, picking and choosing what would make her feel happy and festive during the holidays. There were musical events she attended, visits with friends she wanted to spend time with, and gatherings she knew she would enjoy. She avoided busy shopping times, did not go to any large groupings or parties, and had many special meals, cooked holiday foods, and enjoyed her favorite decorations in her home. For her it was a joyful time for a person living alone.
- Sheila – I had to manage, on my own, about with a Covid exposure. My college student granddaughter called to say she had tested positive and was terribly concerned as I had been with her two days prior for a short visit. Although she had no symptoms she was quarantining, following guidelines. Suddenly my life stopped. I had to secure a test, cancel dates with friends, stop my classes, and stay home alone. I am used to being alone, but a typical day is punctuated with visits from friends, meetings, and classes where I see and enjoy conversation and socializing. I tested negative yet had to wait the prescribed time and retest before I could be around vulnerable people. Almost everyone I know is vulnerable! I could not take the risk of potentially exposing anyone. This ‘being alone’ felt entirely more isolating than being ‘just’ a solo ager living alone and very active. No one could visit me. I was on my own. To say I felt a bit like a leper is correct, yet I couldn’t even enjoy the colony of others in my space. I did OK! I read in bed, binged on movies, made up recipes, cooked delicious meals, cleaned out closets, and snuggled with my dog. 5 days later – still no Covid, still a solo ager but once again able to make my own rules for my time.
- Patricia – I was otherwise healthy until I slipped on some ice and sustained an ankle fracture that required surgery. My oldest child has a disability and could not serve as my “responsible adult” for surgery. I was reluctant to ask my daughter because she is busy with work and childcare. Instead, my older sister, who lives 8 hours away, volunteered to come be with me for surgery but could not stay longer than a week. This situation made me wonder about what defines a Solo Ager. Am I one? My husband is deceased, and my two siblings live far away. Although I have adult children nearby, I could not rely on them for short-term care, and in fact, I am still providing care for them. While this recent episode will likely be temporary, what will it mean for me when something else happens? I think that being a Solo Ager is not so much defined by living alone, or for that matter even being old (whatever “old” means these days!) It may not even mean someone without a partner, children, or close relatives. Instead, I think it has more to do with the support from others being out of reach when help is needed. My experience also made me realize that who qualifies as a Solo Ager is not a discrete population, and can change from year to year, or even from day to day. Since the inability to provide for oneself can be just an accident or illness away, planning for the loss of independence may be the most important task for a Solo Ager. A Wahid Bhat quote exemplifies one of my greatest fears, “What scares me most about aging is not loneliness, but dependency.”