Is aging without family support the same if you're a man or a woman? We think not. Though women face many challenges, aging alone is often harder for men. This article, the first in our new PASS (Planned Aging Services and Support) series, explains why.
There has been much buzz about solo agers lately. A solo ager is someone who is aging alone without support from family. This aloneness carries unique risks.
Professional advice for solo agers abounds for connecting to others, making final wishes known, and getting all legal and financial directives in place. This is all good advice--especially for women. However, these well-intentioned suggestions are particularly hard pills for men to swallow, who tend to view these guidelines through a traditional male lens.
Most men from former generations were taught from an early age never to ask for help.
Being vulnerable was seen as a weakness. “Real men” figure out how to solve their own problems.
This type of traditional masculine coping can be dangerous as most men are feeling lonelier and more isolated than ever, especially in the wake of the recent pandemic.
Below are the top three recommendations to age successfully, whether you are on your own or have family in the picture. These recommendations are critical to your well-being if you are a solo ager.
Make Plans While You Are Healthy
Rarely are the best decisions made while in crisis. Everyone loses when this happens. The person in crisis usually no longer has ability to control their destiny. The people making the decisions for the person in peril usually question their choices as they were given no prior directives. Additionally, if you want control of your future, your best shot is planning early when you have the most options. Options are limited during a crisis and are almost non-existent when there was no prior planning. To make matters worse, arrangements made at the last minute almost always cost more.
Make Friends and Socialize
Isolation kills. Loneliness creates a risk that is equal to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Research proves great benefit in being social as we age. This recommendation can be a challenge for men who are used to others being their social director. Waiting for others to issue invitations and directions creates disappointment, contempt, and isolation. Step out of your comfort zone to connect. Join a club. Go to a local breakfast joint. Consider 55+ or independent living communities where social activities are easier to join.
For men who have been used to going to work every day, retirement can be a difficult adjustment. Work often gives people a sense of meaning and accountability that can be lost with retirement. Sticking to a routine and taking part in planned activities can ease this transition. Don’t forget about physical activity. Research shows physical activity combined with social activity increases overall mental health.
Plan, allow room for others, and ask for help. Does this solve all the problems of a solo ager? No. Even the best planning can’t prevent life from happening, but it can give people control of what is possible as we all grow older.
If you have any questions about caring for elderly loved ones or about your own care as you age, please give our office a call at (615) 824-2571.