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Aging Without Children: Comforts and Challenges

How to choose
Having children doesn’t guarantee that you’ll have someone to take care of you in your old age. But many adults with kids have extra help when facing aging issues. If you have children, you may have a young person who loves you and whom you can depend on when you start facing health and mobility issues later in life. If you don’t have kids, you aren’t as likely to have that support. But that doesn’t mean you can’t maintain your independent living as long as possible—regardless of your lack of parent status. Here are a few things you can do ahead of time to prepare for the inevitable—without the support of a large family.

Choose a city with good public transportation

The longer you can get around on your own, the longer you can stay independent. This may mean you’ll need to move. Choose a city with a good bus or subway system. It’s especially important to look into handicapped accessibility of the public transportation system. You may be perfectly mobile now, but in time you might experience mobility issues that will necessitate a public transportation system that can accommodate you.

Get your legal house in order

If you don’t have children, you may not have anyone close to you to rely on if you become mentally incapacitated. Don’t leave major decisions such as your will and power of attorney until there’s an emergency. Fill out a will and designate someone close to you to have power of attorney.

There are several different types of power of attorney

Most people designate someone to make decisions on their behalf in case of mental incapacitation, usually guided by the directive to doctors in your living will regarding your wishes for treatment. Make sure you discuss your wishes with the person you choose before anything happens. In addition, try to choose someone a fair amount younger than you—this will lessen the chances that this person will be dealing with health issues as well when you need them.

Get long-term care insurance

If you don’t have children, you aren’t likely to have someone in your family who can live with you and take care of you if you need assistance with daily chores or basic activities of daily life. If this is the case, you’ll have to buy that kind of care—and it won’t come cheaply. Get a long-term care insurance policy as soon as you can. Be sure you know what it covers and where the coverage ends. In some states, long-term care partnership programs exist that let qualified policyholders access Medicaid funds for certain expenses when their long-term care insurance policies run out; find out if your state participates and what you need to do to enroll.

Set up automatic bill payments

If you need to make an unexpected, long-term stay in the hospital, who will pay your bills? Set up an automatic bill payment plan so that you don’t have to worry about the lights getting shut off or your credit getting damaged. Most utility companies can do this easily online and over the phone, as can credit card companies.

Get web-savvy

If you ever get to the point where you have trouble going out, you’ll find the Internet a godsend. It lets you stream movies, order groceries online, take online classes, keep in touch with a network of friends, and more. If you’ve never been computer-savvy, now is a great time to learn. Get comfortable with the Internet and social networking and find out how you can get things you need online—just in case you have difficulty leaving the house someday.

Build a support network

If you don’t have kids, you’re not alone. Millions of adults choose not to have children, and many share your situation, facing aging issues without their help.  The stronger your support network of friends, the more likely it will be that you can maintain your independence. Get in touch with others in your age group who need a support system. A network of friends gives you someone to rely on when you need it—someone to drive you to the doctor’s, feed your pets while you’re in the hospital, share your trials and tribulations with, and more. Getting older isn’t easy. And having children doesn’t guarantee you’ll be able to depend on them in old age when you need them. But those without children sometimes face unique challenges and may have smaller support networks than those with kids. Even so, with the right preparation, you’ll be able to rely on yourself long into your old age—with or without children.