Living Alone: Is it Blissful or Dreadful for Seniors
Do you live alone?
More than a generation ago, when extended families were fairly common, this question would have elicited a scowl, or a rebuke.
Now, the same question would likely be followed by “How do you manage?”
Because either way, a senior living alone or not, always carries with him issues needing good answers in this fast-changing and fluid world. And they better come quick because seniors are getting more by the day
In 2013 there were 44.7 million people in the U.S. aged 65 and over – a 24.7% increase over 2003.
Of these, 12.5 million are living alone. Providing them the necessary home care or assisted living services is often taxing to a government’s health care system, even as it is debating whether to expand or contract it.
“Living alone allows us to do what we want, when we want, and how we want.”
If one is living with family, he soon will find out that it is not the best way to enjoy his retirement days because today’s young people are either too busy doing their “thing,” or not trained or are unwilling to take care of elderly parents. In fact, incidents of domestic elderly abuse are rising at an alarming rate.
The bright side, if it can be called bright, is that according to the AARP (American Association of Retirees and Pensioners) nearly 90% of people over 65+ are living alone by choice. In fact they profess to be happy to be alone. They think it is better for their emotional well-being.
In a research done among living alone seniors, they were asked why they continued to do so. Their predominant answer was, “freedom, choice and control, and independence.” One person summed it up, “Living alone allows us to do what we want, when we want, and how we want.”
That’s blissful, isn’t it?
Unfortunately things can turn dreadful without a moment’s notice.
Living alone can be dreadful:
David Bell was living alone in his apartment in New York. In July of last year, his decomposing body was found on the floor by cops who forcibly opened the door when neighbors started complaining of a bad smell coming from his unit.
His’ is not an isolated case. In fact every year around 50,000 people in New York, die alone and unseen. How many die around the world under similar circumstances nobody knows.
While a lot of seniors are happy to be alone, some disadvantages hover over them like dark clouds of an impending storm
David’s case can easily happen to you if there’s no one to help you in life-threatening emergencies.
And there are so many of things inherently found in your surroundings that could threaten your life or limb, or due to your own frailty as an elderly.
Some of these factors are:
1. Decline in physical faculties:
Your decline in physical faculties, i.e. sight, balance, strength, agility, exposes you to the risk of falls. Roughly 1,200 seniors are hospitalized each year due to falls.
Falls can happen when going up or down staircases, when attempting to use a ladder while fixing a light bulb, or reaching for something on a cupboard, or in the bathroom
Medical conditions like hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease, can affect your balance and strength, contributing to the risk of falls.
2. No one to seek advice from:
Online fraud is a real menace targeting hapless seniors living alone.
If you have no one to seek advice from, you can easily fall for difficult-to-refuse offers that come by phone or email.
You can get numerous enticing offers from online stores and dating sites offering basement low discounts or the perfect woman for you.
If you have no one to refer these things to, and help you check their authenticity or legality, you can lose a fortune at the wink of an eye.
3. No one to poke your butt of your food choices:
It is practically impossible to prepare nutritious food when you are living alone.
You will find it a hassle, especially if cooking is not one of your favorite pastimes. So the tendency is to buy those microwavable meals which can be eaten in a minute or two of heating..
Having someone with you can help prepare the right kinds of foods to satisfy your daily nutritional needs.
Relying too much on Meals on Wheels is not the best way of maintaining your health.
4. Failure to listen to your body:
If you live alone, no one can show concern on your overall medical condition, which could be life-threatening.
I had a co-worker who was alone at home when he had a heart attack. When his son came home from school, he was already dead – just a few feet from his heart pills.
Things like this can easily happen to you if no one is around to help you listen to your body and take you for a medical.
5. Lapses in memory:
Of all my age-related issues, I hate lapses in memory the most.
I always get fuming mad if I forget where I put my lighter, or my car keys, or my shoes. I can’t count the number of times I have to drive back home to check if I had turned off the electric appliances in my room, or the faucet, or properly set the water closet handle in my bathroom.
How many times have you forgotten where you put your dentures, or your pair of glasses, or your house slippers?
Lapses in memory can be funny at times, and are favorite party jokes. But forgetting to turn off your gas oven before going to bed is not a laughing matter.
An entire family of four was burned to death for forgetting to turn off a defective electric fan in their living room before going to bed.
How to mitigate these factors:
If you are living alone, you must always be careful or wary of things in your home where potential problems may come.
You must also establish a set of habits that will help you negate the effects of memory lapses.
For example be sure your bathroom mats are the non-slip types, there are sufficient grab bars to prevent falls, and there are no obstructions to free movement inside.
Be sure your drinking glasses are always where they are supposed to be, together with your dental hygiene things.
Have someone teach you the safe ways of shopping online, and get into the Wheels on Meals program so you can be served nutritious food regularly if you get tired of preparing it yourself.
Have emergency numbers within easy reach. Upload emergency numbers into your smartphone for easy calling in case you need them.
Constantly keep in touch with friends, loved ones, and children to let them know that everything is well and good your end.
By practical purposes I live alone. When I am home, I don’t have any person-to-person contact except my house helper who lurks around to attend to my needs.
My house is smack in the middle of a bustling and noisy community and I have to dogs to pet each time I take writing breaks.
Every afternoon I go to a coffee shop where I do part of my writing, to bond with friends and to watch lovely chicks go by.
My children, though living separately from me, are within a phone call away and very felicitous with my needs.
In a sense my living alone is as blissful as can be except for bouts of loneliness.
But that is something that I have to work out for myself. We cannot have everything so we need to improvise once in a while. It makes life more interesting, doesn’t it?
Do you live alone? How are you managing it? Is it any better or worse than mine? Please let me know so we can compare notes.