Solos Should Be Proactive Planners
By Mary Young, D.B.A.
Who will take care of me when I’m old?
It’s a question that haunts many Solos. Some may push these thoughts out of their minds because, without a spouse, partner, or adult child, they see no obvious answer. Other Solos are joining the growing ranks of “Proactive Planners.” Rather than waiting until a time when they might not be able to function independently, they’re getting their ducks in a row now.
It’s a Boomer Thing
One of the ways Baby Boomers differ from their parents is that they’re more willing to seek professional help when making life decisions. In regard to aging, many want to understand their options and make choices for themselves. They want to have a back-up plan in case they ever become incapacitated.
Aging Boomers are also more likely than the previous generation to be Solos. Their divorce rate is higher than their parents’. They have fewer children. And significantly more of them are childless. For LGBT folks, the percentages are even higher. Compared to heterosexuals, LGBTs are four times more likely to be childless and twice as likely to be single and live alone.
Childlessness Has Its Benefits … and Drawbacks
The good news for Solos is that being childless tends to have financial pay-offs. Women who are unmarried and childless have 12-31 percent higher income and 33 percent greater net worth than do unmarried mothers. And childless men are 24-33 percent wealthier than are their peers with kids.
The downside of childlessness hits Solos as they grow older. They may have to pay for things that immediate family provides to non-Solos as a matter of course: a ride to the doctor, an advocate at the hospital, a place to recuperate from a major operation, etc. A Solo who currently turns to friends for mutual aid and support may not be able to ten years from now, as these folks develop their own age-related limitations. Even a Solo’s extended family―younger nieces, nephews, and cousins, for example―may be too busy caring for their elderly parents to take on yet another aging relative.
Facing such realities spurs some Solos to become Proactive Planners.
Enter the Aging Life Care™ Manager
A growing number, in fact, are reaching out to certified Aging Life Care Managers™ (also known as elder-care advisors), professionals who specialize in helping older people and their families navigate the elder-care system and even the aging process itself. They offer expertise and services ranging from medical advocacy to housing options, transportation issues to managing family discord.
Traditionally, Aging Life Care Managers™ have primarily served middle-aged children seeking help for their parents. More and more, however, they also work with Proactive Planners seeking help, in advance, for themselves.
How Proactive Planning Pays-Off
It’s a bit like hiring a local guide to advise you about what to see and do, as well as avoid, in a foreign country the first time you visit. An eldercare manager can help Solos create a plan for the elderhood they want by providing:
- Counseling about life changes related to aging, health challenges, and later-life transitions
- Advice about various care options, their trade-offs, costs, availability, etc.
- Medical advocacy for planned surgeries and unplanned emergencies
- End-of-life planning and an advance directive
Proactive planning can also help Solos build a personal safety net (PSN) to support them as they age. It might include friends, family, and professionals such as current healthcare providers, a financial planner, an eldercare manager, an estate-planning lawyer, and a personal finance manager. It may also include a technology advisor, a life coach, a therapist, a community network such as Amherst or Northampton Neighbors, a religious community, and so on.
By proactively planning today, Solos ensure they’ll be well cared for in the future.
 Tasha Beauchamp, “The New Care Management Client,” Elder Pages Online, LLC (November 2019). https://elderpagesonline.com/
 Brown, S. L., & Lin, I-F. “The Gray Divorce Revolution: Rising Divorce Among Middle-Aged and Older Adults, 1990-2010.” The Journal of Gerontology, 67(6): 731-741 (2012) https://contemporaryfamilies.org/growing-risk-brief-report/#:~:text=Among%20couples%20aged%2040%2D49,ages%2025%2D39%2C%20too.
 Emily Agree, “Demography of Aging and the Family,” Future Directions for the Demography of Aging, Proceedings of a Workshop, National Academy of Sciences (2018). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513078/
 The Facts on LGBT Aging, https://www. sageusa-the-facts-on-lgbt-aging.pdf [This publication does not include data about adults who are questioning (the Qs).]
 Plotnick, R.D. (2009). “Childlessness and the Economic Well-being of Older Americans,” Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 64B(6), 767–776. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2905129/pdf/gbp023.pdf
 Go to www.personalsafetynets.org for more information.
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