How to Plan for Aging If You’re an ‘Elder Orphan’

How to Plan for Aging If You’re an ‘Elder Orphan’

Without family members to lean on for assistance in your later years, you must plan ahead so you don’t age alone.

As baby boomers head into retirement, many are realizing they will have no family to depend on as they age.

Almost one-quarter of Americans over 65 are single and childless, effectively “elder orphans,” with no one to care for them if their health declines, according to a study from the University of Michigan. That doesn’t include people who are estranged from their children or live far away from any family members. And half of those who are married now will end up widowed.

For these baby boomers who can’t expect assistance from family, planning for old age is even more important.

“Some of the big questions that they face are the same questions other people face,” says Rodger Alan Friedman, a chartered retirement planning counselor in Bethesda, Maryland, and author of “Fire your Retirement Planner: You!” “The problem is there’s no family to fall back on in case of financial questions or emergencies.”

Older people often need help navigating the health care system, making financial decisions and even with daily living tasks such as cooking and keeping house. And while you may be able to pay people to help with some tasks, at some point you will still need assistance from people you trust.

[See: 10 Images That Will Motivate You to Save for Retirement.]

If you don’t have family who will step up, cultivating strong friendships becomes essential.

“You’re on your own, and you don’t want to be completely on your own,” says Walter Updegrave, an author and journalist who published the website Real Deal Retirement. “You want to really work hard to have a broad social network.”

To build community while you’re still in good health, consider working part time, volunteering and being active in a religious congregation. “It’s important for all retirees to have these social connections,” Updegrave says. “If you don’t have family, it’s even more important for you to do this.”

You also want to ensure all your documents are in order, including a will, a revocable living trust and a designation of health care surrogate. An elder care attorney or your financial advisor may suggest other preparations as well, based on your financial situation.

Link to the original article written by By Teresa Mears