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Solo agers, a recap

Published April 24. 2018 12:27PM

In late March, the American Society on Aging held its annual conference in San Francisco, and the panel discussion was a success.

The topic of growing older at home without the support of a spouse, partner, or adult children nearby is gaining attention from professionals and businesses. Even community services recognize the significant needs that segment faces. The list of panelists include Sara Zeff Geber, author of Essential Retirement Planning for Solo Agers, Maria Carney, M.D., Geriatrician, Wendi Burkhardt, Silvernest, Scott Moody, K4Connect and me, Carol Marak, Founder, Elder Orphan Facebook group.

Here are the key take-aways:

• Have the conversations with relatives, friends, and spouse,

• Visit with financial adviser to plan your retirement and attorney to set up legal documents,

• Put it in writing: Power of attorney for finances and health care, will and trust and an advance directive for health care,

• Insurance agents to see what types of policies will help you get proper care

• Let your physician know of your circumstances and visit once a year.

• Explore long-term care options, visit potential communities, talk to people with experience.

Here are 10 steps in caring for an elder orphan:

1. Identify all medical issues.

2. Identify cognitive and functional abilities.

3. Obtain detailed social support information.

4. Create a manageable and realistic treatment plan.

5. Utilize service delivery to home.

6. Make safety and injury prevention a priority; address safety and injury issues.

7. Address goals of care and advance directives.

8. Understand privacy issues (HIPAA).

9. Assess decision-making capacity and involve the individual as much as possible.

10. Determine if guardianship is needed, and if so, seek it.

One speaker identified the burdens solo agers face: Big expenses, little savings and isolation.

Solution? Shared economy services like Silvernest, a roommate matching service for baby boomers and empty-nesters.

Another speaker talked about technology and how it connects, serves and empowers older adults and people living with disabilities.

Things we need: Make smart and responsive homes to create independent lives; connect wellness devices to enable healthier and active lives; and create social connection to enable happier and connected lives.

I discussed our deep concerns: Affordable housing; finding rides, especially to and from medical treatments; making tough medical and health decisions alone; social isolation and little support.

That’s a quick recap of our presentation. Attendees walked away with a fresh awareness of the older segment living alone and hidden in plain sight.

Carol Marak is an aging advocate and editor at

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