Living as a solo senior can have different implications than spending your days as a couple. You may still have many personal connections and relationships. However, the way you schedule your time, manage your finances and make decisions as a single senior is up to you. Whether you’ve always been on your own, went through a divorce or lost a spouse in retirement, being single can have its advantages and drawbacks.
If you retire alone, it can be helpful to:
— Structure your finances.
— Consider a single-friendly retirement community.
— Set up a health care plan.
— Make new friends.
— Choose your region.
— Find a travel companion.
— Look for volunteer opportunities.
— Plan for long-term needs.
— Bring a pet into your life.
— Keep a positive outlook.
Use the following tips as you navigate through retirement alone.
Structure Your Finances
If you have a strong handle on money matters, it can reduce stress during retirement. For widows or widowers whose spouse previously managed the budget, this can be an adjustment. “You have to clearly identify your wants and needs,” says Lamar Brabham, CEO and founder of Noel Taylor Agency, a financial services firm in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Needs include expenses such as housing, utilities, transportation, medical care and groceries. If you don’t have enough for basic costs, you can adjust your standard of living or look for ways to earn additional funds. Then consider your wants, which might range from golf to travel to eating out with friends.
Consider a Single-Friendly Retirement Community
Some housing options are designed especially for those who are 50 and older. As a solo senior, this could be a great way to stay socially engaged. “You will probably want a place where singles are not a minority,” says Michal Strahilevitz, director of the Elfenworks Center for Responsible Business at Saint Mary’s College of California in Moraga, California. If you want to make new friends, look for a community that shares your values, interests and hobbies. “While shared hobbies are fun to explore together, shared values will help you connect with people on a deeper level,” says Strahilevitz, who teaches courses on the science of well-being and the psychology of happiness.
Set Up a Health Care Plan
If you are retiring alone, it might be stressful to think about what will happen if you get sick. You can certainly take advantage of telehealth options and pharmacies that deliver. However, it can still be wise to have friends to call on if you need to be driven somewhere, such as home from the hospital. “If you are recovering from major surgery and don’t want to burden friends, you can hire a nurse or even check yourself into a retirement home for a few weeks to get care,” says Jen Lawrence, a certified master life coach and certified divorce coach in Oakville, Ontario. Doing your research and having a plan in place can ease tension.
Make New Friends
If most of your friends are couples, you might decide to expand your social circle. There could be film clubs, language clubs, dining clubs or ski clubs in your area. “The dog park and workout classes are natural spots to chat with other people,” Lawrence says. “Some people will be there to date, but many are simply looking for like-minded friends.” You could find you have a lot in common with new acquaintances, along with the time to build a relationship. “Make sure to meet in a public place and don’t share too much about yourself until you get a sense of the group,” Lawrence says.
Choose Your Region
If you live in a cold climate but love the sun, you could check out retirement-friendly cities in the south. You might decide to move to a new place permanently or to spend several months each year in a warmer region. If you have loved ones who live in a different state, you could consider moving closer to them or opt to make extended visits to see them more often. Residents of cities with a high cost of living might evaluate communities with lower costs. When retiring solo, you have the flexibility to think about what fits you best in terms of cost, lifestyle, people in the region and amenities.
Find a Travel Companion
In retirement, you’ll likely have time to explore interesting places, such as new cities or National Parks. While you could take trips on your own, joining up with others might be a fun way to connect and bond. You’ll also have someone to accompany you at outdoor concerts and theaters. You can book a cruise together or plan out a longer excursion such as several months in a different country. Group itineraries can help ease safety concerns. “If you want to travel, it helps to find a travel buddy or even join an organized tour for retired singles,” Strahilevitz says.
Look for Volunteer Opportunities
If you’re interested in giving back in your community, ask local organizations for the opportunity to volunteer. AmeriCorps has a senior program you can join for free, and then align your interests and skills with ways to serve on your own time. “A lot of clients find it helpful to get involved in charitable work, which seems to be more fulfilling in the long run for retirees,” says Keith Heritage, a financial advisor and managing partner at Heritage Financial in Newberry, Florida. You may feel a sense of purpose by helping others in your area. You’ll also have the chance to meet new people, avoid being isolated and stay active.
Plan for Long-Term Needs
While you may be active and healthy now, there could come a time when you have extra expenses related to medical care. “Consider the later years when you may need help with day-to-day activities, including money in your budget for some sort of long-term care,” Brabham says. You could have someone come to your home as an aide or housekeeper. You might want to research costs for assisted living or nursing homes in your area to see what you may have to pay if you move into a care facility. You could also talk to family and friends, along with your financial advisor, to think through budgeting for health care in the future.
Bring a Pet Into Your Life
Having a cat or dog can give you a sense of companionship and ease loneliness. You might start by visiting an animal shelter to ask about the process of adopting a pet. Think about the costs involved before you adopt an animal and whether you travel frequently. Every time you leave, you’ll want to have a place for the pet to stay or someone who can come and provide care at your home while you’re away. If you love to take walks, you might look for a dog that is friendly, would fit well into your home and needs daily exercise.
Keep a Positive Outlook
If you have been through a large change, such as becoming an elder orphan, it might be challenging to face the years ahead alone. Keep in mind that “retirement is not the end,” Strahilevitz says. “It is the beginning of spending your time as you wish, without the constraints regarding where you can go and when you can go there.” You won’t have to balance your preferences with those of another person in your life as you make decisions. You can take a trip on the spur of the moment or relax all day if you are tired and want to be alone. “If you are single, embrace it,” Strahilevitz says.
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