Question: I see only topics about people’s mothers or grandmothers but nothing about someone like me. I have no family at all, and no one I can ask for help. What are the solutions for me? I'm sure I am not the only one in this situation. Any advice would be appreciated. I am 75 and live alone in my home.
Dr. Amy: Lots of older people are living on their own these days. And given that people over 85 are the fastest growing group of Americans, this is a trend that will be with us for a while. Having enough social support is important for everyone, no matter how old. But it’s especially important as we get older, since we may need help at some point with some of life’s routine tasks.
It’s not too late to build a social support network. I recommend that you consider both informal support from friends and neighbours, and formal support through paid homecare and community resources. If you can afford it, it might be a good idea to have a consultation with a geriatric care manager. In addition to their knowledge of health , psychology, and human development, they have an excellent understanding of public and private resources—as well as funding sources. I am not sure how much help you need today. A care manager can look at both your current needs and help you plan for the future. If cost is an issue, you can call the Adult Services Unit of the Department of Social Services in your county. You may qualify for government-sponsored services. If you are a member of a faith community, the leader will be able to make suggestions about local resources.
As much as possible, I encourage you to get involved in the life of your community. Volunteering is a great way to meet new people. Even if you have limited mobility, there may still be ways for you to participate. Many communities operate a telephone service where volunteers call people to who cannot leave their house, for example. Is this something you would enjoy doing—or signing up to receive calls? If you are mobile, there are likely many options. The key is to keep expanding your network and making new friends, so there are people looking out for you and so you have people you can call on if you need help.
At the same time, there are also things you can do to take care of yourself. Diet and exercise are critically important. It’s also a good idea to do what you can to make it safe for you to remain in your home as you get older. Removing any trip and fall hazards is an example. Installing hand rails and grab bars is another. People without immediate family may need to put more effort into building a support network. But there are many resources out there for people like you who are living alone. The biggest resource is you—and your willingness to make connections, expand your network, and explore the possibilities. Be creative!
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