Aging In Place

5/5/2022 | By Kari Smith

Seniors Guide addresses the challenges of being a solo ager, especially for those aging in place, and suggests workarounds to address the problems that can arise.

You’re sick – really sick – and are suddenly reminded that although you may enjoy your peace and quiet much of the time, it would be nice to have someone to bring you food and blankets and help you move more easily from one place to another. Living alone can be lonely. It can be frightening.

For some, aging solo is a welcome way of life. Not having to work around anyone else’s schedule, noise, or habits can be wonderful for those who appreciate privacy, peace, and quiet.

For others, being alone is not their first choice, such as for widowers or those who have not found the right partner. The situation can be painful for those who have been cut off from relatives, such as LGBT seniors or those who have lost contact due to family conflicts, and even some who suffer from addiction or mental illness.

In many cultures, senior family members are cared for by and often live with younger family, no matter the circumstances. In American culture, aging solo is becoming more prevalent. Moving to a retirement community can help with some of these concerns, but many people prefer aging in place.

Being a solo ager can lead to problems including medical and safety concerns, loneliness, financial challenges, and end-of-life decisions. For these problems, we suggest possible workarounds.

Medical and safety concerns of a solo ager

As people age, they may benefit from having a second pair of caring eyes looking out for them. Are they eating enough or eating the correct foods to maintain a healthy weight? Are they properly hydrated? Are they taking medications as prescribed? Are they suffering with mobility issues? Are they drinking excessively or self-medicating feelings of depression or anxiety? Without someone to notice these issues, they may be ignored by the solo ager, or worse – not even realized, especially if issues are compounded with illnesses such as Alzheimer’s or dementia.


  • Solicit in-home care. In-home care services for those aging in place range from companion care to home care to home health care. If your budget is tight, find a nonprofit, such as your local Area Agencies on Aging or a local government department on aging and disability services, which can connect you with helpful resources.
  • Partner with a friend. If you have a friend who is in a situation similar to yours, partner up to check in on each other. Even if it’s just a nightly text exchange or phone call, it can be reassuring to know that someone is aware if you are not. You can also consider sharing location services on your smartphone or Alexa Together, which can help a friend check on you.
  • Use health and safety technology. An app such as MediSafe reminds you to take your medications at scheduled times and notes the proper dosage and other important guidance (such as “take with food”). It also notifies you when prescriptions are low and connects with caregivers. Some Apple and Garmin watches and other wearables offer fall detection (plus health and activity features that can encourage fitness), while apps such as Life360 and car safety features provide crash detection and dispatch assistance. Life360 (at its premium level) also sends medical help.
  • Prepare your living will, advance medical directive, and DNR. These documents can communicate your personal preferences for prolonging your life – or not – in the event that you are unable to communicate with a medical team directly.
  • Choose a health care proxy. This person should know and respect your wishes and act on your behalf if you become unable to make decisions. Having an official proxy is especially useful if you don’t have a close relative who knows your wishes and will be recognized as a valid decision maker.

Social needs

A lonely looking senior man at home. Photo by Irstone, Dreamstime. Seniors Guide addresses the challenges of a solo ager, especially when aging in place, and suggests workarounds to address the problems.

Living alone can be isolating, and even harmful to health, especially if a solo ager suffers with any sort of ailment that challenges the ability to be active in the community. Although there are many social groups, walking tracks, senior exercise programs, etc. that are great for socialization, these opportunities may be completely unattainable if a senior is unable – or even unwilling in some cases – to leave the house and partake in them. Loneliness can also lead to depression, which may be untreated if no one is there to encourage medical or therapeutic intervention.


  • Find a social group. Plenty of organizations and local governments provide programs for seniors, from education and book groups to recreation and hobbies. But you won’t want to limit yourself to gatherings with your peers – see if you can find all-ages groups that can help you connect with people of all ages.
  • Volunteer. If you have the time, nonprofits have the needs!
  • Reach out. A nonprofit, such as your local Area Agencies on Aging or a local government department on aging and disability services, can connect you with helpful resources. These can include free or reduced-price transportation options as well as organizations and group gatherings that provide transportation.
  • Consider moving to a retirement community. It will be easier to be with people when they are just outside your door.

Financial needs of solo agers

Two-person households often have the resources of both parties, whether one or both are still working, receiving retirement benefits, or are social security recipients. Making ends meet – especially for those on a fixed income – can pose challenges for solo seniors. In addition, these vulnerable seniors can sometimes find themselves more susceptible to scams and fraud, especially by imposters claiming to be representatives of a senior’s financial institution, utility company, the government, etc.


  • Make a list of assistance services. Earmark government providers, such as Section 8 vouchers from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and well as non-governmental organizations such as and Even if you don’t need them now, it will be comforting to have these in your back pocket should the need arise.
  • Consider home sharing or co-op living. You may be able to share expenses, even if you aren’t partnered up.
  • Prepare financial end-of-life documents, such as your will, letter of intent with end-of-life decisions, and financial power of attorney. These can assure that your wishes are carried out if there is no family member, close friend, or loved one to carry out those decisions. These documents can include important matters such as where your money or other remaining resources go (for example, to cherished friends or nonprofits), what becomes of your pets, funeral arrangements, etc. If you leave too many loose ends, much of the money goes to lawyers instead.
  • Plan and prepare for emergencies or health issues early. This ensures that decisions are carried out as close to your desires as possible. Prepare a detailed medical directive and assign a trusted health care proxy. Seek out an estate-planning attorney or assign a trustee to ensure that your legal needs are met when

Being proactive will usually be less stressful than having to react to an emergency. Making detailed plans – although perhaps distressing to think about and carry through – will actually remove fear and offer peace of mind that a solo ager is in control of the challenges and their personal decisions regarding what they care about the most.

Kari Smith

Kari Smith is a frequent contributor to Seniors Guide, helping to keep those in the senior industry informed and up-to-date. She's a Virginia native whose love of writing began as a songwriter recording her own music. In addition to teaching music and performing in the Richmond area, Kari also enjoys riding horses and farming.

Kari Smith