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What Now? When You Never Expected to Be Living Alone

By Kathy McNair February 23, 2024 Lifestyle

Life has a way of throwing curveballs. Perhaps you are married, but your spouse has dementia or a serious illness. You are still independent and healthy and taking care of your spouse. But, if you ever need help, who will be there for you? Maybe your children moved away or, for reasons beyond your control, you just cannot count on them to be there for you. Suddenly, you find yourself in a position you never expected, planning on aging alone.

As an Elder Law Attorney in Boston, Massachusetts, I have helped many seniors without family to rely upon. Planning makes all the difference to ensure your wishes are honored and protect your dignity.  

One of my clients, Ellen, never thought she would be alone. She came from a big Italian family, with three sisters who all lived near each other. When Ellen and her sisters got older, she was the one who took care of everyone. As each of her sisters needed more help she cared for them. Eventually, she was the last one living.

Ellen put together a solid plan for her own future. She found a trustworthy professional to serve as her fiduciary and help her navigate her life as her needs changed, and she executed estate planning documents to make her wishes and instructions known. This planning ensured that her wishes were honored during her life and that her legacy was fulfilled after she died.

If you are planning aging alone, are you prepared for the future? Here are a few tips to get started:

Who Will Show Up?

Think about who will show up when you need them. Perhaps you have a friend or neighbor who you can count on to help you out in small ways, but you can only expect them to do so much. If you ever need assistance with managing your health care needs or finances, you may need to hire professionals.

For example, Geriatric Care Managers can help coordinate the care that you need. Health Care Advocates can help you face a difficult medical diagnosis and weigh your options, so you are not alone. Professional fiduciaries can be ready to make medical, financial, and legal decisions and hire people to help you have the best quality of life possible.

Daily money managers and financial advisors can support you in keeping your finances organized and on track. Now is the time to identify and build a support team of allies ready to step in and help you in case there is a crisis, or you start to need more help. It will be too late once a crisis happens. Who will be on your team? If you don’t know where to start, includes a nationwide directory of trustworthy professionals ready to support you.

Will Your Home Work if Your Needs Change?

Perhaps you want to stay in your own home for as long as you possibly can. If so, take steps now to prepare your home in case your needs change in the future, by making any needed repairs or renovations. A first-floor bathroom will be important if you plan on aging in place.

As scary as a big move may be, it may be better to move to a community where you are not alone. There are many housing options for seniors, from independent living communities to assisted living facilities to co-housing communities. Consider what would be the best fit for your needs and preferences. If you are interested in exploring your options, a senior living advisor can help you learn more about the options in your area and help you find the right fit for you.

Do You Have Legal Documents?

Ensure you have legal documents in place to protect you. At a minimum, this includes a will, a power of attorney, and a healthcare directive. An elder law attorney can help you understand what documents you need and help you set them up. Without the right documents in place, you could lose control and a stranger could be appointed as your guardian.

Becoming a solo senior may not have been what you expected, but with the right support and resources, you can age on your own terms and ensure your wishes are honored. It is important to have a plan in place for now that is good enough. It does not need to be perfect.

It is important to review your plan and make sure the members of your team are still the right choice, at least once per year or as your needs change. You can always make changes as life unfolds. You don’t need to figure this out by yourself.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

If you are planning on aging alone, what are your concerns about making sure you are prepared for the future? Would you like to hear more about planning for your future? Let’s get a conversation started. There are many creative ways to approach planning for the future, and I would love to hear your thoughts, ideas, and feedback.

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Susan V

Great article but I think the url has a mistake? Tried to email it to myself and some weird spammy url came up instead. Wish there was a direct link to email articles from this site.


If you have to have a minor procedure (cataracts, colonoscopy) that requires anesthesia, you can’t drive yourself home. So you need someone to drop you off and pick you up. If you tell the doctor that you are alone, and don’t have family nearby or friends that you can impose on, you get a blank look that pretty much says “not my problem”. Does that mean a solo-ager must forego healthcare? Rather than providing solutions, all the articles I read about solo aging have a slightly chastising tone, like we all should have thought of this before we decided to be born an introvert who enjoys solitude, or to not have children, so it is really our own fault.


I agree with you, Regina. We need solutions to support solo agers. Many professionals are available to provide this support. For example, Health Care Advocates can help support you navigate a difficult diagnosis. They may also be willing to drop off/pick up for a minor procedure, as well. It can be helpful to find that go-to professional to be there for you when there is a minor procedure. If you ever need more help you will know who to call. There is a wonderful organization, Seniors Helping Seniors, that may be able to help also. I created a website, to help solo agers find the professionals to support them. I hope you will check it out.

Susan V

I often feel that way as well.


Vital information! Thank you. I got my documents together last year and it’s given such a sense of relief. You didn’t mention, but for people with pets, it’s important to plan & write out what will happen with them when/if you’re no longer able to care for them.


Hi Sharie, Thanks for much for the feedback. I agree that planning for your pet is so important. Here is an article that I wrote to make sure our pets are taken care of…


A very helpful article, thank you

Joyce Penny

I think we Baby Boomers thought we were going to live forever and in fine shape. What a shock that our bodies and even our minds let us down. I am sure there is resistance to making plans for ourselves now for when we are physically, emotionally or mentally unable to do so. I just got divorced yesterday so my solo life got started about 3 years ago. I just got back from a month in France, I am buying a block of land and planning to build the home on it my husband promised but never delivered and yes, I will have to look for professionals to help me navigate the steps you suggest. So, it isn’t all doom and gloom, as out of the ashes, arises a strong Phoenix with options we couldn’t consider when tied to a negative situation. I have decided I am going to LIVE ’til I die.


I love your positive attitude and that you are making your dreams come true! You are an inspiration.


Joyce, love your approach and the ‘LIVE ‘till I die’ is going to be my new mantra. I too have divorced late in life and navigated through those stormy waters, recently retired and embracing my future with optimism. My best wishes to all in your own journeys.

Stephanie Bryant

Legally separated and on my on 1st time. Always been strong and independent so not difficult but I don’t like being alone. I want a partner and yet it seems impossible these days. I applaud your attitude. I could never move out of the country. I have great health insurance here where I’ll obviously need it as I age.

The Author

I am an Elder Law and Estate Planning Attorney with Senior Solutions in Boston, MA. I am passionate about helping seniors, and especially Solo Agers, thrive. I am the founder of and I am currently writing a book to provide helpful tips on Solo Aging.

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