Nobody likes to be alone, even when they get older. Humans are social creatures, and more often than not, they prefer to be in a group of other people, even if they would sometimes like to deny it. Whether you are young or old, living on your own can be both a blessing and a curse as you try to navigate some of life’s challenges, and one of those is knowing when to ask for help. Unfortunately, human nature means that it is unlikely for people to ask for help through stubbornness and willpower until it is often too late. Sometimes, the trick is just knowing when and who to turn to.
In the latest survey conducted by Pew Research Centre, it is believed that 27% of Americans over the age of 60 are likely to live on their own, compared to just 16% in almost 130 other nations that were studied. This suggests that elderly Americans would be more willing to look after themselves or live with just their spouse as opposed to living in large family settings. This is reinforced when you consider the average house size for older citizens is 2.1 people, which is decidedly smaller than the global average of 3.4, with 46% of over 60s saying they would live with a spouse but no younger relatives. Even as far back as 2016, there were 12 million American citizens living on their own, showing that this has been consistent for at least six years now. All these figures show that with just over a quarter of Americans living alone, it is clear that independence is just as important asyou get older as at any other point in your life, despite whatever challenges that might entail.
Can living alone be a problem?
Living on your own has a number of problems though as although you have that all-important independence, the lack of companionship and interaction with others can take its toll and have an effect on your mental health, which is why sometimes it is important to know when you should be asking for help. Even where parents are concerned, it is only natural to worry about them as they get older, but sometimes it is important to let them work and cope at their own pace. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t look for signs your parent needs assistance, but just be discreet and respectful about it; otherwise, you run the risk of causing offense and an unnecessary argument. There is no shame in needing help, but sometimes more damage can be done by offering assistance where it might not necessarily be wanted or even needed. Just look out for potential warning signs that they might need more help than they are letting on and make a note of it in case you feel that action might be needed sooner rather than later.
What are the concerns?
There are a number of concerns about loved ones living on their own, ranging from worries about their mental or physical health, including the potential for falls and accidents if they do have any ailments or difficulties. Elderly citizens are normally more likely to suffer from falls, with a staggering55% of fall injuries occurring within the home and a further 23% outside but near the house. Many of these injuries can be avoided with the correct safety precautions. It is also important to keep an eye out for any drastic or noticeable changes in your parents’ appearanceor even just their home. Piles of unopened letters and general untidiness could be an indication that they might be suffering from some underlying cognitive issues, whereas if they have started to develop strange spending habits or even just shown any erratic behaviour, such as getting lost on the way to familiar destinations, it could be early signs of dementia or Alzheimers. There is no guarantee that this would definitely be the case, but some of these issues are commonly considered symptoms of greater cognitive struggles.
Knowing when to offer help
It is never easy knowing when to provide help to someone, let alone when it is a relative or someone else that you care about, but quite often, there are tell-tale signs that can alert you to whether they need help in their everyday lives. Quite often, they are health-related and early assistance can often provide that vital help and attention that can improve quality of life and give them the necessary support. It might just be something as simple as popping to the shops if they feel unable to or potentially helping out with some of the key household chores such as mowing the lawn or even just doing the dishes to save them a job. If they are having any problems with their cognitive functions or even just having issues with daily life, it might be worth looking into retirement homes with assisted living or even see if a carer can come around the house reasonably often to check that everything is ok. Just by taking steps to offer help can give you greater peace of mind, but it also means that an elderly relative might be receiving any support that they might be in desperate need of.
Whilst independence might seem important in daily life; sometimes it is equally as vital for someone to accept when they might need help. Unfortunately, sometimes human nature dictates that people will stand their ground and push back as it is difficult to give up that independence, especially if you have been living alone and self-reliant for a long time. With the correct steps, it is possible to live a happy life alone until age eventually catches up to you. It’s just one of those unavoidable facts of life. Everyone ages, and one day it might be time to look after those that are important to you. Until then, just keep a close eye and let them enjoy it while it lasts.