Is it just me or does everyone who grows older alone think about the current circumstances and ask, How can I create a safe and independent lifestyle?
For the past 10 years, a decade since my parents’ passing, I’ve thought a lot about the future. It’s on my mind a lot because my sisters and I helped our parents with elder care concerns and found it to be a lot of work and worry. Now, I’m up in years and wonder, Who will care for me since I don’t have children or a spouse?
Over the last decade, I’ve put a lot of thought into how and where I want to age in place. In the process, I feel wiser, although there are days that I feel invincible and think it’s silly to put so much energy into it. But I know the difficulties of aging since I’ve seen it with my own eyes.
The number of people 40 and over having no children continues to rise. As a comparison, in 2010, the U.S. Census reported 19% of women aged 40 to 44 years had no children, as compared to about 10% in 1980. Furthermore, in 2009, almost 33% of Americans aged 45–63 years were single, an increase of 50% increase from the figure of 22% in 1980. There are no signs of the trend reversing.
I’m not entirely alone because of my brother and sisters and their children. However, not having kids of my own allows the freedom to be selective about how and where I want to live. Being independent and adapting well to being on my own contributes to the freedom that I enjoy.
I’ve tried several times to connect with a partner and have married twice; neither worked out. I envy those who can make it work and believe, given a chance, I am in a better place emotionally and mentally to make a marriage successful. I’d like to think it’s because of my patience and ability to be happy and content with myself.
However, I remain alone by choice and will not waste energy pining away on missed opportunities. Whew! Acceptance is much easier on the emotions.
Searching for my piece of heaven, a place where I could grow older and be content, resulted from several moves to different cities and one in particular that made me downright miserable. I won’t mention by name but the locals were not a good fit, nor was the rural setting. You see, I grew up in the country, and prefer city life and the amenities it affords.
After several years, I’ve landed in a place that offers potential to make me feel settled and hopeful. Maybe here I can live a long time and age in place comfortably.
Reflecting back and remembering the time and energy to get here reminds it was a combination of constant visualization and determination all mixed with faith and hope. That’s not to say that patience, time, resources, experiences, mistakes, landing on my butt a few times and grabbing resilience by the horns didn’t help.
My intended aging-alone lifestyle continues to unfold and still needs some forethought, but for the most part, I’m confident that where I live will serve me best. But I’m here to tell you a life worth living, according to your terms, is possible.
Over the years, I’ve learned life doesn’t compromise. Individuals must negotiate and concede because life has a mission, its own plan. It does not follow our dreams necessarily. Not mine or yours. I’ve learned to dance with it.
Another lesson to accept; loss and mistakes bring gifts. The most significant lesson for me is to accept losing loved ones, beloved pets, former friends and partnerships, No matter the pain, I stayed the course and had come out on the other side, as many of you. What we do with the metamorphosis is up to the individual.
Wallow, sink. Grow, flourish.
My preference of home size went from large to small over a period of 15 years. It took about that long to downsize. It wasn’t until after several moves that I questioned, What the heck am I doing with all this stuff? Why am I moving it? Do I need it? Do I use it enough to pack, unpack, and pack up again? No.
But before I could begin to let go of the stuff, I needed to see a glimpse into what my life could be like once I’d let go and downsized. It’s the old saying, “You know what you don’t know.” But once you do know, that’s when the bells and whistles shrill. I call it the attractor factor.
Those two places with the attractor factor in my lifetime are Carmel Valley, California, and Austin, Texas. Both are very different, but each introduced me to the walkable, livable, close-knit neighborhoods. The Carmel Valley condo stood near the beach and in the midst of convenient shopping. I lived there for four years until my parents needed help. So, back to Texas I headed.
There, life was about my parents’ care. But after their transition, I understood the significance of planning for the future and the kinds of predicaments that come with aging. That’s when I knew a strategy for growing older alone must is vital.
It’s not enough to just own a place to live and save a lot of money. One must consider the ancillary aspects as well, like transportation, convenient shopping and entertainment, and creating an environment of support.
After mom and dad died, I moved to downtown Austin. That was my turning point and wake up call. I lived close to everything. The lifestyle granted easy access to a bountiful farmers market, organic food markets, banking, museums, restaurants, library, parks, walking trails and indoor concerts. After the year, I knew this is for me.
This has been my experience in creating a livable aging in place lifestyle. I no longer live in Austin, but I do remain in Texas and have found my piece of heaven that has me drooling every day. In the next article, I will tell you more about my search.
But in the meantime, to help you get started with yours, here are a few resources that could help. First are these city guides with a wealth of information. Also look at the livability scores at this site, and the 10 Best Cities for Successful Aging.
So, what about you? What’s on your mind when thinking about aging in place? And if you’re alone, what’s your plan and preferences for a life worth living? Please join the conversation.