Solos Come in Many Varieties
By Allen Davis, CFP, ChFC
Strictly speaking, solos are defined as adults age 65 or older who have neither a spouse/partner nor adult children to support them as they age. But Solos are a varied bunch. The complexities of real life, real people, and real families produce a lot of diversity under the Solo tent. In the real-life world of serving financial planning clients, we’ve worked with many people who don’t qualify as Solos, technically speaking. Yet in actuality, now or in the foreseeable future, they will be aging pretty much on their own.
Some Solos are married.
In numerous cases, both members of a couple are living but one of them has become incapacitated ―for example, with dementia or other progressive diseases such as ALS or Parkinson’s, either at home or in an institutional setting. Particularly when there are no children in the picture, the more able spouse is becoming solely responsible for finances, major life decisions, and planning for their own aging. While care-giving is often all-consuming, the survivor is simultaneously transitioning into the role of Solo.
Some Solos have children.
Some Solos are parents who, nevertheless, will be on their own as they age. There are many reasons why this might be the case:
- The geographical distance between the generations can be a major obstacle. No matter how strong the relationship, long-distance support and care-giving always has limitations.
- Because of chronic illness or a disability some adult children aren’t capable of caring for an aging parent. In fact, they, themselves, may need ongoing care.
- As many as 18 percent of older parents are estranged from their adult children.
Some Solos aren’t really sure what their status is.
The family, as an institution, continues to change, and many new forms of relatedness are emerging. As a result, some Solos feel they’re living in limbo, not knowing whether they have “family” who can support them, if the need arises. When one member of an LGBTQ couple dies, for example, it may be unclear whether the immediate family as kin regards the survivor as kin. Stepparents may have similar uncertainties about whether their stepchildren’s commitment to providing care. And when long-term partners have never married, the relationship among survivors may be even more ambiguous.
Are we all Solos?
Of course not. As the formal definition spells out, Solos have specific characteristics. Yet regardless whether you are aging on your own or with the support of close family, ultimately all of us are alone. This much is universal: We all need partners in the broadest sense, whether they be spouses, longtime companions, children, extended family, friends, neighbors, helpers, or professionals, as we navigate the complexities of later life. Every one of us needs a “village”.
Our new newsletter, The Soloist, explicitly focuses on Solos, a growing but often unacknowledged segment of the older population. Its monthly collection of articles provides insights that financial planning advisors overlook. It features the voices of experts as well as Solos themselves. It presents a variety of topics, not only financial planning but also estate-planning, elder-care planning, social supports and community, living arrangements, wellness and healthcare.
Ultimately, these are what we all need in building a personal safety net for aging.
Allen Davis, CFP is Managing Partner, Davis Financial Group.