Aging Without Kids: A Woman Needs a Plan

Women without kids are getting smart about what's ahead. Here are some impressive role models with legal, financial and emotional support plans already in place.

A recent NY Times story about childless adults planning for their old age introduced Marianne Kilkenny, 62, an unmarried NotMom in Asheville, North Carolina. After a fall left her worrying that she’d never be rescued, she relocated to a large, lovely house that she shares with two other single NotMoms and a married couple.

Now, Ms. Kilkenny is a cheerleader for what she calls “Golden Girls” arrangements. She is the founder of  Women Living in Community, an organization to help others like her find shared living spaces.

I say it all the time: Boomers are redefining aging, and they’re just getting started. Any NotMom who’s friendly with the numbers 5 and 0, in that order, has wondered who’ll be there for them when they’re old and feeble. Some are wondering who might come to an ER at 3 A.M. right now.

Keys to successful crisis planning for NotMoms, according to the experts, begin with the selection of Power of Attorney, Executor and designated caregivers who are younger than you are.  Nothing worse than watching your entire support system fail physically, or die, before you do. Doesn’t mean that friends your age can’t be part of the A Team, but when it comes to legalities, a younger associate is best.

Merril Silverstein, a top gerontologist at the University of Southern California said as much in asimilar piece published by the NY Times last spring. “The boomers will be so different in so many ways, it’s hard to project,” he said. In part, that’s because no previous generation has had access to such broad social networks (online and off), higher education, higher incomes and 

access to paid caregivers.

Dr. Silverstein and his USC team reviewed a national sample of  adults age 75+ who had trouble walking or getting in and out of bed. Their published 2010 study — The Effects of Childlessness on the Care and Psychological Well-Being of Older Adults with Disabilities (whew!) – determined that childless adults weren’t receiving less care than seniors who were parents. Another assumption busted. In addition, the adults with no kids scored no lower than parents on tests to measure psychological well-being.

Manhattan’s Ann Logan is a role model to remember. Profiled in the Times in 2011, Ms. Logan, 63, moved to New York City purely for its quality health care, accessible public transit and affordable entertainment. She’s named her P.O.A. and a separate health care proxy who can make medical decisions and see her medical records. She also bought long-term care insurance and arranged other Medicare supplements.

Ms. Logan dared to envision herself hospitalized or immobile. Now she has automatic bill-paying accounts and knows how to buy groceries online and fill up a Kindle. Her will is written and includes provisions for her cat.

“I know I’ve covered more things than most people,” she said.

Wow. How much have you got covered?

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