Can We Come Together to Disrupt Aging Alone?
To “disrupt aging alone” has been top of mind since I turned 60. This month, I turn 65, so it’s growing even more relevant. Happy birthday to me!
Now, Medicare is my health insurance. Yea! Finally, a plan with decent coverage. My next stop: Social Security. But, at the moment, settling in a “livable” community is my request this year. This is the one I’ll send out to the universe as I blow out my candles.
To “Disrupt Aging Alone” is a Gift to Myself
Geriatrician, Dr. William Thomas has a national tour called the Age of Disruption. Likewise, the CEO of AARP, Jo Ann Jenkins, has a mission of her own, which she communicates in her new book, Disrupt Aging. Both undertake significant causes.
It’s my birthday, so, I’ll jump into the movement and hope for connection and purpose to those growing older in solo mode.
My New Facebook Group
Its name is “elder orphans,” which has created some controversy. Some people found it offensive, while others quickly identified with it.
It’s safe to say, as I move forward, you’ll see the group and content labeled, “disrupt aging alone.” In three months, we grew to over 550 members. And that’s with NO marketing and not much promotion. That’s impressive and it tells me, “there are many of us out here.”
The company I work with, Seniorcare.com, will soon launch data reports gathered on the U.S. aging population. Here’s what we discovered about the people living alone (over 65)—in select cities (U.S. Census):
Dallas – 30% live alone, 69% of those are women
Denver – 38% live alone, 69% of those are women
Seattle – 38% live alone, 68% of those are women
Washington D.C. – 38% live alone, 66% of those are women
Chicago – 32% live alone, 68% of those are women
As I celebrate the milestone, the aging alone phenomenon remains front and center.
Addressing Unwanted Isolation and Disconnection
This is a big issue. If one has minimal transportation options, due to a lack of a driver’s license, no transit or few sidewalks, one cannot be mobile. It’s a huge concern for seniors living in suburbia.
But isolation goes beyond mobility. As people age, they move to be nearer family (if they have children). Or, they downsize to share a home with a friend. Either way, they leave close relationships behind. And, if that person is older when making the transition, it’s harder to create new ones.
Here’s the kind of comment I hear a lot in the Facebook group: “I live alone and want to connect with others. How can we do that? Does anyone live in my ‘blank’ city so we can meet for coffee or something?”
Since I’m in senior care, I know the risks and effects of unwanted isolation. They can include depression, diminished physical activity and motor function, disrupted sleep and daytime dysfunction, impaired mental and cognitive function, increased systolic blood pressure and vascular resistance and altered anti-inflammatory responses and immunity. The makings of diseases and that’s not what the age group needs, increased risks for chronic conditions.
How do we resolve and address the growing hardships of unwanted isolation and loneliness? Can an Uber-like solution fix aloneness? There’s an Instacart for grocery delivery, an app to hire a caregiver and even one that handles errands and grocery shopping. Unfortunately, it doesn’t cook meals, though!
Now, we need to automate the social aspects of aging in place and living alone.
Any Developers Want to Take on This One?
We could use a girlfriend or a buddy bench app. Did you see the youtube video about the grade school kids on the buddy bench in the news? It’s very charming and older adults need one too.
Here’s what I want for my birthday. I want an online community for people over 50 who live alone. But, I want us to have private conversations – even ones categorized by cities, like Foursquare, that would be cool. But, it has to be private.
Volunteers could join and so could other health care professionals – not to sell services but to offer advice. The app or online solution would include categories like education, “local” resources, aging in place help, housing alternatives, nutrition classes and even ones for legal concerns. Facebook can handle surface-level concerns, but, unfortunately, not the deeper ones that I want.
So, I hope to hear from you, dear Sixty and Me readers. You’ve proven to be the most interested in the topic. Some of you have even joined the Elder orphan group on Facebook, even though the name turned you off. Thank you for your feedback, by the way!
The group is now 550 strong and most of you found us via word of mouth. Now, I hope to move forward by creating a space for deeper connections. So, if I start a disrupt aging alone forum, would you participate? What would it take to keep consistent interactions? I’d like to hear from you.
What do you think of the idea of starting a forum for older adults who are living alone? Would you participate? Why or why not? If you feel alone and isolated at times, tell us how you break the monotony of being alone. Where do you go to meet others who want to connect and make new friendships? Please join the conversation in the comments below.