Single Seniors: The Impact of Aging on Unmarried Baby Boomers

The baby boomer generation is a widespread topic of discussion as a wave of the population turns 65 at a rate of 10,000 every day for the next 19 years. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, “There are 76.4 million baby boomers. There were actually a total of 76 million births in the United States from 1946 to 1964, the 19 years usually called the 'baby boom.' Of the 76 million baby boomers born, nearly 11 million had died by 2012, leaving some 65.2 million survivors. However, when immigrants are included (the number of people coming into the United States from other countries, minus those moving the other way), the number grows to an estimated 76.4 million because immigrants outweighed the number of baby-boomer deaths.”

In her article, “Unmarried Baby Boomers Face Disadvantages as They Grow Older”, Lori M. Hunter points out that "given 33% of baby boomers are single, they may face economic, social, and health disadvantages because they aren’t married." According to the Administration on Aging, in 2013, 54% of women 65+ were single and 29% of men 65+ were single (due to death, divorce, or never marrying) What are the major questions and concerns for single baby boomers as they age?

Paying for Long Life

We are living longer and longer and paying for long life has become the focus of most baby boomers approaching the retirement age. The recession hit many retirement portfolios and single baby boomers will traditionally not have as high of a household income and savings to rely on during retirement years. While many baby boomers are choosing to work past 65, traditional retirement years can now span 20+ years. Living expenses alone are difficult to cover without an income for that period of time. However, it is in our later years in life that we also consume the most healthcare services.  

Family Deferring Long Term Care Needs

Many spouses become the first caregivers and help ailing partners recover after a medical event like a surgery or just assist with daily tasks as they age. This often pushes off the need for professional long-term care within the home or a move to a facility for some time. In the case of a divorce, this can also mean a smaller pool of extended family that is available to share the responsibility of meeting caregiving needs for single adults.

Safety at Home

The most common place for an injury or fall for aging adults is within the home. For those single adults living alone is common and safety can be a real concern. If they were to need help in the night or have an injury, would they be able to make it to the phone? Would they have family close by that could come assist for a period of time? People who live daily with us are also often the first to notice important changes that can be the symptom of the start of a chronic disease such as dementia. For those living alone, not having another person witness changes and urge action may result in greater periods of time before diagnosis.   

Staying Healthy & Building Community

Managing chronic illnesses through living a healthy lifestyle is one of the primary indicators of quality of life for aging adults. As human beings we tend to be communal creatures that follow the habits and patterns of the people we spend the most time with. For single aging adults, it can be difficult to stay motivated to exercise, take medications properly, and eat well. Maintaining community that shares the same health and wellness values is the key in maintaining active independence. This companionship and group activity can really help extend and energize positive habits for seniors building the life they want. Remember, living alone is not the same thing as living an isolated life.

Death of a Spouse

It is common for many aging adults to live part of their later life as single seniors. After the death of a spouse the vision of old age may seem drastically different than the current reality. When all household management responsibilities including bill paying, repairs, cooking, etc. shift to one person it can be a heavy responsibility and often be overwhelming for the person who has never been responsible for a particular need. This may make those who are newly single more likely to relocate and simplify their housing expenses and responsibilities.

Single, No Children

For those aging adults that have no or estranged children the challenges of being currently single comes with its own set of unique questions. Who can I designate as my Power of Attorney should something happen to me and I need and advocate to speak on my behalf? Who can be the executor of my estate and where should my assets go?

Geriatric Care Management & Single Seniors

Care Managers have long been standing in the gap for aging adults when they are their most vulnerable. Each person and family dynamic is unique and as experts in the care of aging adults, Care Managers create a long-term plan of care to anticipate and meet the holistic long-term care needs of each individual. As RNs and MSWs, Care Managers are able to help single seniors navigate the healthcare system, find appropriate housing, arrange care services within the home, manage medications, liaison between multiple doctors, and generally manage their care. Care Managers’ clinical and compassionate involvement in the life of single seniors greatly increases their safety and quality of life by addressing many of the voids that family would fill. If you are a signle adult planning for the future, or know an aging adult living alone and you are concerned about their safety and well-being, tell them to give us a call to begin mapping a plan for a better future. 800.628.7649. 

Published on October 10, 2014.