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Aging Alone in the 'New Family'

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The North American family isn’t what it used to be. In fact, it’s shrinking. And that leaves many boomers and seniors alone and concerned about how they will cope as they grow older.
Consider this from the MetLife Mature Market Institute study “The New American Family”, compiled in partnership with the Society of Actuaries Committee on Post Retirement Needs and Risks:

  • There were 7 million Americans living alone in 1960, representing just 13% of all households. Now there are 31.2 million, a jump of 350%. Among those who are age 65 or older, 45% live alone. This development will have significant repercussions for both retirement planning and long-term care.
  • In Canada, the number of one-person households increased 10.4% between 2006 and 2011 to just over 3.6 million, or 27.6% of the total. For the first time, Statistics Canada says there are now more people living alone in Canada than there are couples with children, a three-fold increase since 1961.

Growing older alone isn’t impossible. But it does require careful planning. If you, a family member or client expects to be aging alone, consider the following tips (US or Canada) from financial experts and others who are traveling that same path:

  1. Designate a person with power of attorney and a health care proxy. Make sure those individuals know what you would prefer for care if any end-of-life decisions must be made.
  2. Meet with a financial planner to help ensure you understand your finances, including the money and benefits that you can expect from savings, pensions, Social Security and any insurance coverage you may have such as long-term care insurance.
  3. Talk with an attorney about developing or updating a will.
  4. Arrange for automatic bill pay in the event that you are unable to care for yourself.

Other areas of life also could be impacted as someone grows older alone, and calls for special consideration including:

Living Choices

Consider what other family members may want and how a living situation could impact them. Plan a family meeting to discuss the situation.

Download the Living Choices Chapter of the Aging Plan to learn more.

Financial Choices

Find a trusted friend or professional who could help you develop a plan and carry it through in the event that you need help living independently.

Download the Financial Choices Chapter of the Aging Plan to learn more.


Find someone to hold you accountable to healthy choices and who could motivate you to stay on top of your health issues.

Download the Health Chapter of the Aging Plan to learn more.

Relationships and Dating

It’s especially important to build a social as well as a task-based network. Have a plan in place that identifies individuals who could help you. Or tap into public or private services you could call on for assistance.

Download the Relationships and Dating Chapter of the Aging Plan to learn more.


The inability to drive could leave you vulnerable. Have a plan in place that identifies individuals who could help you, and public or private services you could call on for assistance.

Download the Driving Chapter of the Aging Plan to learn more.

End of life

It’s imperative that you have a network in place to assist when the time comes to make important decisions. Reach out to a family member or close friend to begin the conversation.

Download the End of Life Chapter of the Aging Plan to learn more.

To help better prepare for aging, whether alone or not, complete the 40-70 Rule®: An Action Plan for Successful AgingSM (US or Canada).

Last revised: July 31, 2014

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. January 2, 2016 at 9:24 am | Posted by Rose

    Use the 'Elastic Effect'. Let them be and eventually they will spring back. Although your heart misses them terribly, sometimes it is just easier to let them make the choice to come back to communicate. Write down the special things you love about each of them. Make notes to express your feelings but keep them for yourself. Writing them down might help relieve some of the hurt and anxiety. Good Luck Rose


  2. September 7, 2014 at 11:58 pm | Posted by Nola

    I have four son. one is very busy, one lives a long distance from me, one does not speak to me, and the last one tells me he does not want the drama and will not listen. My husband died 3 years ago so I am alone. how do I get them to listen


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