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Do the Single and Aging Have Different Needs Than the Partnered?


Do the Single and Aging Have Different Needs Than the Partnered?

It’s a rhetorical question. If you ask members in the Elder Orphan Facebook group, you’ll likely hear, “Duh, of course, the single and unassisted older individuals may be similar in many ways to the married or unmarried with adult children, however, our needs are quite distinct. 

The most glaring one is having another person to count on. Even if the individual is widowed, and has offspring, in the back of her mind, she can count on a daughter or son to step up. However, sometimes, even a Mother can’t count on a daughter or son. 

Research says, those living alone are hidden in plain sight, and professionals in the aging industry don’t see us at all. 

For me, I think my life is very different than an attached counterpart because I have no one to rely on to “talk things over,” like health concerns, needing rides, and taking care of me if I get sick. Nor do I have another’s help, a partner, with paying expenses, property taxes, rent or mortgage. Furthermore, someone with an adult child or family member, have a high chance of getting help if one needed it. Most family members rally if a parent receives a cancer diagnosis, or had a stroke or a broken hip.

There is a difference between having kids out there somewhere and having none. 

How others experience the difference

  • We are SO different! If you are a homeowner, issues of maintenance and upkeep are solely my responsibility, On healthcare, no one to assist when I am ill and heaven forbid I need a procedure and someone to drive me there and back. What about the strange looks a person gets when one doesn’t have an emergency contact to list. Or someone to take care of pets if hospitalized. I could go on and on but I need to go out and snowblow my driveway! 
  • I think it is a big issue that is completely ignored. When I told the doctor that my ride to a colonoscopy moved out of town she just said I could reschedule. It was like talking to a wall. They don’t get it. I said I had no one to take me and it didn’t even register.
  • The big ones for me, going everywhere alone. Most professionals assume (despite the stats) that everyone has a husband, or a wife, and two or three children. But that’s not the case.
  • I feel tremendously isolated, and people don’t realize how cruel it feels when they ask about my children, husband. Wish I had a family but it never happened. 
  • We are a vast, untapped market of consumers with needs and wants. ​​
  • It will be interesting to see how the new Uber ride turns out. If it’s a hit maybe they will step up with more services. I’m talking about them taking people to medical appointments with vetted drivers.
  • When I remodeled the bathroom, every decision was mine to make. And the bill to pay. Now, I have appliances to replace, and the burden falls on me. I miss having a sounding board to run these kinds of questions by another person. Being an older adult without back-up is tough.
  • All those above, plus the assumption that there’s someone here to help you move furniture and crawl around on the floor, holding in buttons while plugging some other doodad when your cable goes out!

The point is clear.  We have frustrations, true. I could argue that services do exist for most needs. To name a few:

Transportation – Uber and Lyft. And Uber has come up with a solution for rides to medical tests with the new Uber Health.

Related: Seven Significant Things I Would Tell My Younger Self About Aging

Affordable housing – Silvernest and other shared housing matching services are now available. But what about Assisted Living communities? Can we access residential housing for seniors with sliding scale services or menu driven pricing for the single person on a limited budget? (We want the kind in an upscale environment.) 

Socialization – a few companies mentioned above eliminates isolation. But let’s think of other ways older individuals living in the country or in the suburbs could connect and expand their circle. I know a start-up that’s creating a mentorship program between older adults and young children. They will connect via online video, in residential housing, or in the libraries to help one another. 

Food delivery issues are now solved by Walmart, Whole Foods, Amazon, and other delivery services. 

One member suggests, “I’d ask them to structure and offer care programs through more than one lens: One that assumes an individual has no reliable family support; and one that facilitates self-advocacy and offers trustworthy assistance options.”

Thinking outside the box here, I ask if a tech designer to create an app to “share the family?” If you ask me, I know several people with four and more children, who would like to get rid on one or two for a couple of hours. 

Can you think of a sharing service that would help us? 

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