Studies have shown that in general women worry twice as much as men. We worry about our job, we worry about our friends and family, and we worry about our future. As a childfree woman, the worries about my future do come up. I am married and my husband has done everything to insure I am taken care of were he to pass, but nothing in life is ever a guarantee. Some of the most common worries about the future are dying alone, not having enough money, and loneliness (or not having a support system in place). Many people in the past have "solved these problems" by having children. It is assumed children will care for you, be there when you pass, visit you and forestall those lonely feelings. We aren't parents and we don't have children to fill those voids, so what do we do?
Let's get one thing out of the way, you can be single and not only survive, but thrive. Society has told us that to be fulfilled in life we need to get married and have 2.5 kids and a dog and a white picket fence. Though for some this might be true, it's in no way a requirement. Marriage can be a blessing and so can children, but being single can be a blessing as well. Even in the bible Paul speaks on how he wishes all people could be single, and only if you cannot be single should you marry. We don't need to fear being alone, instead we can choose to embrace it.
The best way to remove the fear of being alone in the future is to start enjoying being alone now and the best way to be happy alone is to love who you are. Being alone is a scary thing if you don't like the company you're with and maybe you don't like the company because you don't really know them. Who are you? Do you even know? I encourage you to take a journey of self discovery. Find out what you like and what you don't without external influence, find out who you are outside your family, your friends, your relationships. (Click here to read my previous post on loneliness)
The best way to remove the fear of being alone in the future is to start enjoying being alone now and the best way to be happy alone is to love who you are.
Okay –– I love who I am, now what?
Plan ahead. No matter your life situation retirement planning should always be a priority. When people ask "Who will take care of you when you're old?" you should be able to confidently answer "I will take care of myself." With the cost of living steadily increasing and inevitable care needed in old age, we need to prepare for our future. Starting your savings as early as possible is the easiest way to insure you have enough resources to retire. Invest in some mutual funds and watch your money make you money! Another consideration is insurance. Everyone should have a life insurance policy to cover any after death costs, but we should also consider other insurance options like disability insurance, long term care insurance and critical illness insurance. Find a trusted financial planner near you and make a plan! You don't need to be rich to get advice and the sooner you start the more secure you will be.
When making that financial plan consider where you will live. Our homes aren't only a financial commitment but also a time and energy commitment. Lawns to mow, filters to clean, errands and costs. In the 1980s a show came out about 4 older women living together, you might have heard of it –– Blanche, Rose, Sophia and Dorthy and we called them The Golden Girls. Although it seems like a strange concept to us, this idea of women supporting each other and living together isn't a new. In 14th century Northern Europe society had no place for widows, so women created shared living communities to support one another as they aged. This concept of a shared community not only reduces individual financial burden but also the burden of care and loneliness. It may not look like a typical nuclear family but it can function just as well, giving the women all they need in the way of connection and care.
This concept of a shared community not only reduces individual financial burden but also the burden of care and loneliness.
Humans were never designed to live alone. Although we aren't required to have children or a spouse, we need some sense of community for us to thrive. People who experience consistent loneliness experience cognitive decline, increased blood pressure, a weakened immune functionality and can even experience increased inflammation. If living life like the marvellous Golden Girls isn't up your alley, make sure you do something to build yourself a healthy support system. "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up" (Ecclesiastes 4:9) Who are the people that are there to lift you up when you fall? Do you have a support system in place? Deep friendships make us look forward to the future and the joy we can experience with those people instead of fearing it.
Speaking of experiences, what are things you've always wanted to do? What is something you wanted to try but never had time, or a place you wanted to go but never had the money? When we reach retirement age we have the opportunity to pursue all those dreams we've put off for years prior and take advantage of all that free time. We can use this time to ensure we have a legacy we're proud to leave behind –– maybe you'll volunteer at an organization, donate to worthy causes or adopt all the senior pets from a shelter. We can use our wisdom to pour into the lives of those around us or take off and go on that Alaskan cruise.
Living a happy, fulfilled live as we grow old boils down to planning and intentional choices. We can do things today that our future self will thank us for, filtering our choices with a lens of having a fulfilling life instead of a life filtered by fear.
“He who is of a calm and happy nature will hardly feel the pressure of age, but to him who is of an opposite disposition, youth & age are equally a burden.”