One hundred and fifty years ago, families groups had a different framework than they do today. Young couples got married and had children. Grandparents helped raise their grandchildren, oftentimes living in the same marital home as their children. If they grew feeble or ill, their children took care of them.

After the Civil War, many families were left caring for newly disabled family members. On top of this struggle, hundreds of thousands of American families lost loved ones. Around 2.8 million men were involved in the war and 620,000 never came home. Wives, children, and elderly parents were left without the breadwinner of the family, either because he died or couldn’t work due to injury.

The effects of the Civil War prevented many families from being capable of supporting elderly family members. Slowly there was a shift as generations began leaving the elderly to care for themselves, alone in their own homes or in nursing homes. Sadly, the new norm for senior citizens is isolation, loneliness, and depression

You may be wondering who will take care of you as you age and how you can prevent falling into a situation that is unacceptable socially, mentally, and emotionally.

Life Expectancy

Today’s life expectancy is much higher than it’s been in the past, in large part due to medical advances that cure illness or slow the rate that they affect the body. According to Psychology Today, a woman who is thirty has a 29 percent chance of living beyond 90 years old, while a man of the same age has an 18 percent chance of living that long. She has a 12 percent chance of living to age 95, and he has a five percent chance of reaching 95-years-old.

Science and technology will continue to improve lives, and medical advances will work towards steadily improving life expectancies. You should start planning early in life to prepare for the possibility that you will live many years beyond retirement. While you may be comfortable with your station in life, once you reach your golden years, you’ll need to plan on keeping that standard of living, but on a much more limited budget.

Preparing for your old age requires you to make provisions for your healthcare, finances, and possessions, so that you have control of your life not only beyond retirement, but through the final stages of your life.

Concrete Steps To Prepare

In preparing for your future as a senior citizen, you should ensure that you have a durable power of attorney, a will or a trust, and an advance directive.

Durable Power of Attorney: A power of attorney appoints someone who will manage your finances if you are unable to do so. You should ensure that it is durable, which means that if you become incapacitated, the document is still valid. If the document does not explicitly say it is durable, then the power of attorney is null and void if you become unable to make decisions for yourself.

Will or Trust: A will or trust specifies who will receive your wealth and possessions after you pass away. In a will, you can name an executor for your estate as well as guardians for your children.

Advance Directive: An advance directive is a document that explains your wishes regarding the use of life support and tube feeding. It also assigns a healthcare representative who is legally responsible for ensuring that your end-of-life healthcare wishes are known and respected.

Additionally, most individuals should have long-term care insurance, which can help pay the costs associated with long-term care that is not covered by health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid. Some people won’t invest in long-term care insurance, claiming that it’s too expensive and might not even be used. However, if you have property, possessions, and money that you’d like to pass on to your children and grandchildren, this type of insurance is recommended, as it protects your assets while covering the costs of assisted living, in-home care, and other long-term healthcare solutions.

Will Adult Children Care For Their Parents?

In the past, it was an adult child’s responsibility to care for his aging or ill parent. This is still the case in many situations. More than 65 million people in the United States care for a family member or friend who is elderly, disabled, or chronically ill, according to a report by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. The report also created a profile of the typical family caregiver, listing her as a 49-year-old married woman who is caring for her 69-year-old widowed mother.

Many elderly couples rely on their spouses to care for them in times of sickness. Today, more people are choosing the single life, with 25 percent of adults over the age of 25 choosing not to marry. Additionally, an increased divorce rate among those aged 50 and older means that more seniors are facing their winter years alone.

Many adult children move away, into different states and across the country, making them inaccessible to aging parents. Even if they live nearby, elderly parents are outliving their children. Heart disease and diabetes are responsible for taking the lives of younger adults, leaving their elderly parents alone to grieve and face their final years alone.

Thankfully, many senior citizens are building loving relationships with younger people, even if they aren’t related, establishing connections that will help them through sickness and old age. The elderly can connect with young people through volunteering at libraries, clubs, or religious programs, through local pen pal connections, or by interacting in online groups.

The Future

We can make plans and prepare as best as we can for what the future holds for us, but there is no way to know exactly what is going to happen until the time arrives. Our spouse or children may take care of us if sickness strikes, or we may never need help at all as we age. Maybe a niece or nephew will step up and be a caretaker or maybe we’ll make an unlikely friendship with a neighbor who lives down the street. However, as long as we live each day with acceptance and kindness, we are sure to find someone willing to offer companionship and assistance in our times of need.