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All by myself – the challenges of living alone

Wellbeing

All by myself – the challenges of living alone

From the age of 75, more than 36 per cent of Australians are living alone, and three times more women than men are likely to be by themselves. KENDALL MORTON reports that ageing solo brings some challenges.

Carol Marak is the founder of The Elder Orphan Facebook group. She lives alone, and set up the group to provide social support for herself and others. Carol found the main concern for people ageing alone (solo agers) is not having a friend who will listen if they are feeling sad.

Secondly, they need someone to call in an emergency.

If you or a family member are ageing alone, here are some steps to help you stay safe and enjoy your independent life at home.

  1. Build your network

Use meetup.com or Facebook or your church to create a small supportive community of solo seniors. Take a skills inventory of the group and see how you can help each other out. Someone who is housebound can make calls to check in on others or collect resources. Others may offer to give someone a ride to a medical appointment, arrange lunches or guest speakers.

  1. Age where you are

Think about your home and how it will work for you as you get older. Are there many stairs? Is there a lift to your third floor unit? How steep is the driveway? Is the public transport handy? What about medical facilities?

If you are living your dream on a few acres 45 minutes from hospitals, it may be time to re-think this. Sometimes seniors are forced to move from their dream homes into care because the property becomes too much work.

You are more likely to have a fall or sustain an injury if your home is no longer suited to your needs.

  1. Stay safe

When living alone, falling over is a major fear. People fall for a few reasons. As you age, it’s common to lose muscle mass, strength and flexibility. This makes you more prone to falling. Poor eyesight and medication can also contribute to falls. To help stay safe, join an exercise class for seniors or do your own program at home.

If you are not very mobile consider chair exercises, chair yoga and deep breathing. These activities can improve your blood flow, lift your oxygen levels and boost your mood.

Remove throw rugs from your home. Install good lighting in all areas and be sure that the switches are within easy reach at night. Consider installing motion sensitive security lights.

  1. Phone a friend

Another major fear that is played out in the media is the possibility that no-one will know if you die suddenly. You could be sitting on the patio for a week before the mower man comes by.

So, remove the fear by setting up a check-in system with a few friends. Just send a group text by 9am each day to say “alive and well”.

If there is no reply, one of the group or a carer can drop in.

If you need more monitoring, you can ask the Australian Red Cross to call you regularly. They can also provide you with a personal alarm.

  1. Protect your independence

To live at home on your own, you need to be mentally alert. There is no one else to check if you turned the griller off. Brain training programs abound on the internet. You can do pre-tests with these and often start with a free trial.

But don’t discount socialising. Playing card games with friends is highly beneficial. Also consider setting yourself some fun memory challenges.

See the book Memory Craft by Lynne Kelly for ideas. Your brain uses 20 per cent of your oxygen so keep it fuelled and calm with deep breathing or daily meditation.

Think positively about ageing alone. There are thousands of Australians in this situation. Together we can make this phase of life richer and easier.

 Kendall Morton is director of Home Care Assistance Sunshine Coast to Wide Bay. Call 5491 6888 or email kmorton@homecareassistance.com

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