Fighting Loneliness: How Local Friends Can Become Your New Family
The concept of aging alone occurred to me after helping my older parents with challenges like cleaning the house, meal preparation, shopping, driving to doctor’s appointments and medical treatments, and even managing medications.
Once they passed, I had lots of time to reflect on the caregiving years and realized how involved and difficult elder care is. Growing older takes planning, a lot of hands on support, learning about local services and a whole lot more.
And since I have no children, spouse or partner, my elder care tasks, and challenges, will fall solely on my shoulders. I was 57 at the time and thought, “How will my care play out without nearby family support?”
Living Alone but with Friends
We are a growing segment, according to the Census, and our needs will grow more difficult to handle since we live alone. The uncertainties brewed in me for five years, until I decided to do something about it. It’s why I’ve created a plan of action and continue to tweak it as my needs change.
Online Social Groups
A year has passed since the launch of my Facebook group, and during this time, members have formed close ties, found support, solved serious issues and even celebrated special occasions – together, not alone.
The online group has helped many find some level of hope, comfort and peace of mind. However, we still yearn for social contact and connections, and to find real solutions that we can depend on if needed.
Local Support Clubs
Several women that I know have started building local support with friends. They start out socializing and having fun but grow more serious over time. After a while, they realize there’s so much more they can do together.
When people form close ties and relationships, they become stronger, capable and extremely savvy. It’s like they feed off of each other’s strengths and can turn worrisome concerns into solutions.
Personal Care Team
By creating your social and support network, you’ll find that you have built a personal care team with each other. You can make a list of referrals for needed services such as rides, meals, personal care services, cleaning and shopping.
So, if you find yourself living and growing older alone, with little help from family, may I suggest that you and friends start a group like the one my friend has put together? Each month, they gather in a member’s home to discuss their aging needs.
From their discussions, they’ve pulled together information that one may need in case of an emergency. They also shared with one another a list of phone numbers of local services in case someone gets sick and needs extra help to get by, such as food delivery, discounts and handyman referrals.
They also share transportation ideas and local churches or places that provide volunteers for companionship.
Other lists and resources that come in handy to share with your friends:
- How to prepare for a surgery
- A list of members and close friends and their contact information
- Where to go for employment support and to find a job
- Places to find housing options
- Research on needed local services
These are a few suggestions and ideas that everyone can start in their local communities. When you create support like this, you and everyone else will begin to feel more comfortable and hopeful that aging alone is okay and to fill the gap with good friends.
Do you live alone? Do you have local friends who can help you with local services and resources? What advice do you have for other women living alone who want to live independent lives? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Carol Marak is an Aging Advocate and Editor at Seniorcare.com. She’s an experienced family caregiver and writes about aging issues, care concerns, and the family’s role throughout the journey. Carol earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from the University of California, Davis. Her work appears in Huffington Post and health care outlets. Follow at @Carebuzz and @SeniorCareQuest.