aging-alone-3

My Plan for Actively Aging Alone

“I live alone without a spouse or children, and I wonder apprehensively, ‘Who will care for me in my elder years?’…. It’s time to tap into the power and potential of neighbors to help support and care for older people, while seniors contribute by helping young families.”

Getting older opens a whole set of unfamiliar issues and discussions. I used to worry about my older relatives. Now that I’m turning 65, the concerns that I had for them are the same that I have for myself. It’s funny how our lives shift in just a few decades.

Things that cross my mind are: Will I isolate myself, will I outlive my money, and what will my long-term needs be?

But there’s a big difference between my parents’ older years and mine. I live alone without a spouse or children, and I wonder apprehensively, “Who will care for me in my “elder” years?” Oh, sure, I have siblings, but they’re older than me and will likely need my help, not the other way around.

I know that if I plan wisely, there’s a chance that in my elder years I’ll receive similar types of care as my relatives enjoyed. I know that now is the time to put a plan in place, but first I need to explore how I want to live later on, because if I wait until I need help or want more companionship, it may be too late to find a solution.

As I figure out how I want to live, I’m making changes.

The Value of Intergenerational Connections

The first has to do with children. Children have never been a big part of my life, but I do appreciate their energy and enjoy spending time with them. We’re similar in some ways, and I’d like their encouragement to be more like them in the ways that we’re dissimilar. Young people have high hopes, and so do I. They’re always ready to try something new, and I’m not. Having access to their influence could change my life. And that’s what encourages me.

I want to live in a town or urban area where people of all ages converge and together unravel some of the country’s complex challenges; where every person is respected and valued, and allowed to participate and contribute; where aging adults find meaning and purpose, even at the end, through compassionate relationships and continuing engagement; where an active component of neighborliness exists—one of social and emotional value. I want to live in a place where everyone enjoys connection and fun, and shares stories, laughter, grief, understandings and concerns.

Last year, when I moved back to the area where I was born and raised, it never occurred to me just how involved (again) I’d become with the people who live here. It’s a small Czech community, and many of the residents are kinfolks. The local librarian is my cousin, a former high school English teacher. She is involved with programs that include students from the high school. Through my encouragement, she’s willing to help design and sponsor local intergenerational programs.

Building Intergenerational Activities

The teenagers in the community are engaged. It’s the older generations that I worry about, because they are inaccessible. I know it’s because they don’t want to be a bother, but I think they spend too much time alone, and that’s not healthy for anyone. So my cousin and I hope to remedy the generational divide. Trust me; it’s as much for me as it is for them.

Intergenerational connections make magic, and that begins with activities. Since in our culture, people tend to gravitate to isolation and impersonal “tech” networks, my cousin and I plan to create approaches that address pressing community needs. We envision older adults tutoring children in the lost Czech language, the younger people helping seniors learn to surf the web and connect with family long-distance via Skype. Both generations can share a meal cooked by all, and we also plan to encourage movement and music.

Whatever the activity — from photography, cooking and tutoring, to shopping on the web — it’s the dialog that’s crucial. We’ll encourage question-asking, discussions about similarities and differences, and the sharing of stories about what each generation has learned from this experience of intergenerational exchange. By having these conversations, we hope to loosen the grip of ageism.

As America ages, the increasing numbers of older people will put pressure on the government and social services. It’s time to tap into the power and potential of neighbors to help support and care for older people, while seniors contribute by helping young families. Together we can make it better for everyone.

Carol 150x150

 

Carol Marak earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from UC Davis and is aging advocate, columnist and editor at Seniorcare.com. She invites you to join the Aging Alone Facebook group to learn and share with like-minded people searching for a better way to live as we age.

 

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21 comments
  • yvonne
    REPLY

    I am a 65 yo female and live in NC. I should be so content because I live near the beach. With that said I am lonesome also. Went to a couple meet-ups but didn’t work out. Most people have groups already and it feels somewhat strange trying to join a group that you have nothing in common with. I live in a 55 And older community but noone really socializes. I a lonely. Live on social security and a small retirement. My children live in VA. And perfector content content with me in NC. They call and tell me they love me but are afraid I might suggest moving back to Va. I guess the saying ,WTD, (waiting to die) applies to me, I can’t say I won’t be relieved

  • marta martinez
    REPLY

    Hi there again. I’m Marta and live on the upper east side and if the goal is to gather like minded folks let me know. I can be reached via this mode.
    Marta

  • Helen Fisher
    REPLY

    I guess I’m in the same boat. I’ve lost so many family members just in the last year and a half, I still can’t get over that. I’ve been trying to figure out how to find other people just to chat, have coffee with, talk…just someone to talk to. I don’t know how to go about being active again, maybe I’m just too old at 70. I have a small part-time job in home health care, but there are many days I don’t see or talk to anyone. I have thought often of getting a group of women together just to visit with each other. That way we’d all be checking on each other but enjoying the company at the same time. I just don’t know how to get started. Every time I try to look up something like that on the computer it ends up with responses about dating, etc. I can’t figure it out.

  • Catherine
    REPLY

    Hello Carol, I too identify with what most of what the women here are saying. I think it’s a great idea to form a network of Like-minded seniors as our selves . The problem is HOW? I am very interested please share. Hoping you honor not publizing my email

  • marta martinez
    REPLY

    Hi there i live alone and have no family members nearby. I agree that sharing your status on facebook is unsafe given the social climate we are living with these days. I am able to get around and share with some friends however it is getting harder to meet people as i get older. I wouldn’t mind sharing with like minded seniors. i am very active and go to the gym a few times per week. I dance whenever I can get chance to . Most of my friends are younger and they are are active as I am and those who are older are not as active as I am. I i do everything for myself except driving as I don’t need to.

  • Carol Marak
    REPLY

    Thank you, everyone, for reading the article. I’m happy you enjoyed it and that it inspired some of you.

    To learn more about Intergenerational living check out these sites: http://www.cohousing.org/ and http://www.ic.org/. I hope they give you direction.

    For those who want to connect with like-minded folks, start a meetup in your area. I started a Facebook group–check it out:
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/elderorphans/ – but join only if you feel safe and secure.

    @Brigitte Where can we find your book?

    Thank you all!

    Best wishes.

  • Gloria
    REPLY

    I suggest that we like minded folk formulate a plan to do nurturing things together, perhaps starting by exchanging emails to get to know each other. Then perhaps we coud select activities we could do tògethere in some way?..At the very least we could establish some great email relationships…..

    • Brigitte Nioche
      REPLY

      Carol – my book GETTING OVER GROWING OLDER can be bought thru AMAZON as a print edition ($14.95 or on the Kindle $3.99)

      Or you can buy a signed copy directly from me .

      I have been thinking of starting a group where people can discuss their concerns – sometimes talking about it already helps
      let me know your thought

      Have a good day

      Brigitte

  • Judy Kaszas
    REPLY

    I am in the same boat. I am 69 years old and have only a few friends. it is hard to make friends at this age no matter where I go, church, clubs, etc. I don’t know what to do because I don’t have any family I could count on. I also live in a five floor walkup and worry about getting hurt. I do have long term care insurance but that doesn’t’ cover everything. I live in NYC in Queens and the thought of moving makes me sick, Going out of town would scare me because I don’t know no one and can’t drive and would have to depend on someone also. That’s my story in a nutshell. Any comments.

  • Carolel Mulliken
    REPLY

    Hello Carol,

    Our circumstances are very similar. I live alone, and my three siblings live in two distant states and in Canada. I did not marry or have children. Additionally, my two lifelong best friends have died recently, one from Lou Gehrig’s disease and the other from congestive heart failure on Saint Patrick’s Day of this year. As difficult as it was, it was an honor and a privilege to be with her around the clock in her last several days.

    My career was high school teaching, high school counseling and adult ed., so I was always surrounded by plenty of kids. With students, colleagues and friends aplenty, I was never aware of having any social needs at all. I actually enjoyed solitude. Then I had to retire at fifty with a disability. Now, at 67, imagine my surprise at finding myself so acutely lonely! Being alone and feeling lonely are entirely different experiences.

    Being alone signifies making decisions on one’s own, provides time for uninterrupted contemplation, meditation, and reflection. It allows choices based purely on one’s own values, goals, and priorities. Being alone can be glorious, as many widows discover in their later years.

    Loneliness, on the other hand, signifies acute awareness of unmet needs for connection, for socialization, for partnerships, for compassion and for understanding. Alone suggests self-sufficiency; loneliness feels isolated, hollow, inadequate, and sometimes rejected. It feels like being without resources in times of need.

    In past times, I did organize groups and events around common interests, but in the last seven or eight, I have not been successful in doing so. Your post is an inspiration to try again. Thanks!

  • Helen Harris
    REPLY

    I do not see anywhere in the article the specifics of how these goals are to be achieved.
    How EXACTLY are you planning to get people to cook & eat a meal together & where will that take place, how will you get people to be part of a more caring community. That is the real problem
    & the real question.
    It sounds lovely but how do you do it?

    • Judy Kaszas
      REPLY

      Please get back to me by email at jkaszas@verizon.net so we can chat a little about starting something. I live in Queens and I have no idea where you live but it’s a start. I did got to Senior Planet for awhile, but got sick and couldn’t go and haven’t been back since. Maybe that would be a good thing to suggest to them.

  • Susan Resnick
    REPLY

    I have neither a spouce nor a companion. I have a son who prefers to be left al;one than bothered by Mom. He will deny this as every older child will. Its ok, as he will hve a child someday that will do the same thing to him. I know, as I did not listen to my Dad, and thereby I have a son who is igmpring me. But more to the point. I am not afraid, I,m just loney for companionship of lots of people. like in an AA or NA meeting! ha thats a laugh, I dont drink nor do drugs, so what else is there???

  • Brigitte Nioche
    REPLY

    I greatly enjoyed your article – it’s such an important subject – I just wrote a book on the subject and would not mind to share some of it with you in one way or another – let me introduce myself my name is Brigitte Nioche

    If you want to have a little more information please go to [hyperlink removed by editor]
    amazon.com Getting-Over-Growing-Older-Positive

    Maybe we can do a reading – it’s not about selling books I would like to help people to manage this challenge of aging

    With best regards

    Brigitte

  • Phyl
    REPLY

    I have to admit that I would not be comfortable posting info on Facebook re seniors living alone……not here in New York.
    Your idea is great and could open the door for meeting like minded seniors.

    • Judy Kaszas
      REPLY

      I agree totally, but how does one accomplish this nice goal. Does anyone have any ideas. I am up to anything to get together with people in the same boat as I am.

  • Carol Marak
    REPLY

    Hello, my name is Carol, the author of the article. Thank you for reading. If you have questions or care to discuss, let’s do it here. Please post your comment and let’s start a dialog on actively aging alone.

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