April 23, 2018

Getting and Giving Help: Turn To Your Friends


      Recently, I asked fellow blogger, Jean Potuchekfor permission to rerun a November, 2016 post from her blog, Stepping Into The Future: A Retirement JournalJean has been single and living alone for more than 40 years, so she has the experience to address this subject much better than I do. Also, she is a sociologist who has done research on singles, and is currently in the process of organizing a local support group for “solo seniors,” those who are negotiating aging without a spouse/life partner, children, or family nearby.

      I thought her perspective would be a perfect addition to my ongoing education. 


I recently joined a Facebook group for “elder orphans” – older people without spouses, partners or children. This is a closed group with moderated discussion, and it’s a cut above the usual social media experience. The group discussions are thoughtful and passionate and focus primarily on problems and issues that older singletons regularly face.

Many of the discussions focus on the importance of friendship networks for “elder orphans.” In the words of the Beatle song, we all “get by with a little help from [our] friends.” But those who have lived alone for years have often developed a habit of independence that makes it difficult to ask for help, and those who are newly alone (e.g., recently divorced or widowed or with grown children who only recently moved away) may not have learned yet how to rely on friends instead of family. In this post, I want to share what I have learned over the years about getting help from friends.
  • To get help, you have to ask for help. Don’t expect friends to just notice what you need and provide it for you. Most people like to help others (within limits). Years ago, a psychotherapist asked me how I felt when others asked me for help. “It makes me feel good,” I said. “It makes me feel needed.” “Then why,” she asked, “are you so determined to deprive other people of that good feeling?” It was an important lesson for me.
  • Spread your requests for help around so that you are not asking one or two friends to meet all your needs. I remember one friend who needed a lot of emotional support after a cancer diagnosis. She would glom onto a particular friend and then call that person 5-10 times a day and often wanted the friend to come spend the night at her house. She was burning out her friends at an alarming rate. Friends will find it hard to be helpful if they feel overwhelmed.
  • In order to spread out your requests for help, you need an extensive friendship network. A good network of supportive friends may include some close, emotionally intense friendships, but it also needs to include a larger circle of less intense relationships. One widow of my acquaintance who has been looking to make a few close friends asked “Do I really need more casual friendships?” The answer is yes!
  • Ask people for kinds of help that they are able to give. If they can’t give the kind of help you are asking for, but offer some other kind of help that you could use, say yes and look elsewhere for help with your first request. One member of the Elder Orphans group posted about a sibling who had asked her not to send him a text message first thing every morning. She took this as evidence that he didn’t care whether she was dead or alive. But I found myself looking at this request from the brother’s point of view. I savor mornings of solitary calm as my favorite part of the day. I would experience a request to respond to another person’s text message first thing each morning as oppressive.
  • Many of us find it difficult to ask for help and then get a response of no. We can feel unreasonably rejected and unloved. One way I have learned to handle this is to send out group email messages asking for a particular kind of help and then letting those who can volunteer their assistance. When I had to get to a series of chemotherapy treatments 30 minutes’ drive away from home, I sent out an email to a large group of friends and co-workers asking for help with transportation. So many volunteered that I was able to have different people drive me to and pick me up from each of my six treatments. Word of my cancer diagnosis had spread quickly through my workplace and people were very grateful to be given some way to help. And because I wasn’t dependent on any one person, I was able to retain some sense of control.


Friendship is, by definition, a relation of reciprocity and equality. This means that, in order to get help from friends, you must give help to friends. Ideally, you will have developed some of these relationships of mutual support before you really need them.
  • Offer to help, even before people ask. When I learned that a friend was having day surgery, I asked if she needed transportation. It turned out that she had already asked another friend for that help; but the fact that I offered makes it easier for her to ask me for another favor or for transportation in the future.
  • Put yourself out a little to help others. It’s sometimes tempting to say “no” when filling a request for help is inconvenient; but if you never inconvenience yourself to help others, they will have no reason to inconvenience themselves to help you.
  • Be sure to ask others what it is they need. It’s fine to suggest something, but don’t just assume that the other person wants what you would want in that situation. You might think that nothing would be more wonderful than having friends take turns to provide home-cooked meals for the first two weeks after a hospital discharge; but your friend might be looking forward to cooking and eating her own favorite foods.
  • We can’t help others unless we also take care of ourselves, so sometimes we need to set boundaries on the help we offer. When I saw my very needy friend with the cancer diagnosis burning through her friends one at a time, I knew that I needed to protect myself from the same fate. So I made an offer: I would be happy to set aside one half-day per week to spend with her, doing whatever she wanted to do. She chose Saturday afternoons, and for several months, I spent every Saturday afternoon with her. Sometimes, if she was recovering from a chemotherapy treatment, I just sat and read while she napped. Sometimes we went out for a walk or a shopping trip. One of her work colleagues used our arrangement as a model to set up an online sign-up where friends could volunteer for times to visit with her. In this way, he managed to ensure that she had company every day of the week without burning anyone out.
  • Try to reciprocate the help you get from others how and when you can. One friend of mine with a heart condition that prevents her from shoveling snow bakes favorite confections for the neighbor who shovels the sidewalk in front of her house after he does his own. A friend who is no longer able to drive periodically treats the friend who does her weekly grocery shopping and his wife to dinner out at a nice restaurant. By doing what she can, she maintains the reciprocity that is at the heart of friendship.


Thank you, Jean for your insight and willingness to share. While her focus is on singles, the suggestions above can work for any of us, regardless of our status.

Please give Stepping into the Future a visit. 

34 comments:

  1. First, thank you for using your own blog to give attention to the situation of retired or elderly persons who are single or living on their own, such as myself. That said, the above blog post from Jean is the type of post that I find rather despairing. Frankly, she just doesn't seem to get what the situation is for many in this "retired" category. One reason seems to be that she seems to be writing from the perspective of a person who entered into retirement with a fairly large contingency of "friends" or "colleagues" already securely in place. For example, she writes, "When I had to get to a series of chemotherapy treatments 30 minutes’ drive away from home, I sent out an email to a LARGE GROUP (emphasis mine) asking for help with transportation. So many volunteered that I was able to have different people drive me to and pick me up from each of my six treatments." The situation of many persons, particularly women, who are either self labeling themselves or being labeled by others by the dreadful moniker ELDER ORPHANS, is that they often have no one or hardly anyone at all who they might call upon for help. The "large group of friends and co-workers," for a variety of reasons just doesn't exist! At the most, what some have is very distant or estranged, uncaring family members, or perhaps a friend or two at most locally. The Facebook Group "Elder Orphans," which I participated in for awhile had some issues. One was that the group was being commercially exploited by the administrator, i.e. it was fodder for her own career objectives. Secondly, marked SES disparity existed within the group, with some struggling to survive on practically nothing, while many were discussing moving in $400,000 "retirement villages." In fact promoting such economically out of reach villages was one of the commercial interests being fostered in the pages of the Group. Thirdly, while it was an issue giving rise to empathy, many persons participating in the FB group, typically women, were bordering on being dysfunctionally depressed because of feelings of isolation and aloneness that they themselves could see no solutions for. Certainly the empathy of the group helped some, but virtual support has its limits, although some may have succeeded in making a few nearby social contacts from among those in the group. If anyone reads this, I can hear in my head "well why don't those women DO something about it." Well, I'm in that category myself, now dreadfully labeled by others as an "elder orphan," and while I'm not depressed (as of yet) about it and enjoy my solitude, satisfactory solutions aren't as forthcoming as those not in the situation might imagine. I've taught Sociology myself, and truthfully I was a bit surprised by what I thought was the TOTAL out of touchness of the blog segment you posted. It doesn't even touch the despairing depth of the problem which many isolated seniors wrestle with, nor does it address the societal, economic, and sometimes health constraints which hinder solutions. As for the 6 chemotherapy treatments, I would have most likely had to pay a taxi for the 30 min. round trip, but then again, I could economically budget that, while some simply could not have.

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    1. Thank you for your honest and heartfelt reaction to Jean's thoughts. As you know, I am reaching out to others to bring some of the issues involved with being single and retired to light, since I cannot write on the subject with any authority.

      Your point is well stated and represents one of the major problems as I understand it: lack of friends and social contacts within the segment of the single population.

      I hope others are encouraged to share their reaction, not just to this post's position, but to any issue that affects the single, elder population.

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    2. B.E., Thanks for pointing out that not all experiences of solo aging (I too find the term "elder orphans" off-putting) are the same. There are several things I'd like to elaborate on in response to your comments. (1) Among the single elders of my acquaintance (clearly not a random sample), those who are long-time singles are more likely to have an extensive friendship network than those who are more recently single. (2) When I got diagnosed with cancer at age 50, I was living and working in a place where I didn't have close friends, but did have friendly co-workers. Most of the hundred or so people I sent my email requesting help to were co-worker acquaintances rather than good friends. I cast the net wide because I knew I needed the help. (No taxi service in the very small town where I was working, so that was not an option.) The surprising thing I learned from that experience is that people *wanted* to be helpful and were pleased to be asked. (3) Extensive friendship networks don't just happen; they have to be carefully built. I think that is why long-time singles are more likely to have them; they've been working on them for decades. I have been surprised to find the years in my sixties and early seventies a good time to make new friends. I am lucky to be healthy and to have lots of interests, and I make it a point to strike up conversations with people I meet at various activities. I never turn away from an overture of friendship or a chance to make such an overture because I feel as though I need to build up my friendship network as much as I can while I am still able. -Jean

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    3. Yes, but can you please see how your own experience is still seeming to color and hence seeming to "dictate" that others should be able to easily find solutions which you yourself were able to find, based on your own circumstances--circumstances which for many others simply don't exist or have never existed. One reply you give is that "oh yes I was once in a town where I had no close friends (too), but needed help," BUT SO WHAT I DID was email 100 co-worker "mere acquaintenances" to hopefully find helpers. Can you see the clash of realities in making such a statement? A hundred acquaintance co-workers to email--oh ONLY that? What a terrible pickle to be in! Sorry for the sarcasm, and I feel as if I'm haranguing you, but, and I hate to be so blunt, I am so tired of reading writers who want to be beacons of inspiration and enlightenment to other solitary elders, but who totally miss the boat in terms of what so many elders experience. Of course, every writer finds their own audience. Incidentally though, isolation or solitariness (translated sometimes into lacking adequate social support in times of crisis) can have absolutely nothing to do with whether one has a broad range of interests or not, whether one has been a life long single or not, and whether one is willing to strike up conversations with strangers or not--aspects which you pride yourself on being fortunate to have.

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    4. Of course my perceptions are shaped by my experiences, just as your perceptions and your reading of what I've written are shaped by your experiences. I am what the social psychologists call an 'instrumental coper' -- meaning that I deal with life stresses and adversity by looking for some way to take action (and give myself at least the feeling of having some control). Because I find it difficult to ask for help, what has worked for me is to ask as many people as I can think of in a general way (in my life, group email lists work well for this, even if I don't actually know all the people on the list) so I don't feel personally rejected by any individual. I don't pride myself on having lots of interests and activities so much as I pride myself on being able to find resources I can leverage to find a way to take action. For me, interests and activities are important resources because they provide groups of acquaintances I can call on if I have to. You are right that I find it hard to imagine someone so isolated that they have no acquaintances (no neighbors, no church, no area agency on aging, no shared activities with any other human beings). Part of my message here was to encourage people who are not completely housebound to do what they can now to avoid becoming that isolated. Clearly, you feel that these strategies won't work for you, and I accept that; we are not all alike. Your experience, however, does not mean that my suggestions are ridiculous or completely out of touch with reality.

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    5. B.E. Johnson, you hit the nail right on the head. That whole "happy families" thing describes a surprisingly few situations.

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  2. Great post. As you know I'm happily single. Lately, though, I've felt a little more isolated than usual. I called a friend who lives in another state, and said "I'm needing to be missed." He took the cue (smart man) and launched into a sweet assurance that I was dearly missed and loved. So I agree that asking for what you need is a must. You might not always get it, but you can't expect everyone to be mind readers, at least all the time!

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    1. So, a little different than the comment above! Good. The comparison helps highlights that this is an issue with no one solution or reaction.

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    2. Galen, Thanks for sharing this example of asking for what you need. The first year I was retired, we had a very hard winter and I found myself housebound and feeling isolated. The following fall, I reached out to my next-door neighbor, who was recently widowed, and proposed that she come to my house for dinner once a week. I thought it would be a win-win, since she was still working and her husband had been the cook in the family and it would provide me with insurance against winter isolation. She was delighted to be asked, and that arrangement has served us both well for three years now. -Jean

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  3. Well, I am widowed with no children but I'll never label myself an elder orphan. I have 6 friends I can call on for help but I never needed any help until I injured my hamstring last year. Not life threatening but I couldn't walk or take care of myself. I was in the hospital for 3 days and medicare provided an aide for 2 hours 3 days a week when I came home. I live in an apartment building in nyc and a lot of my neighbors are immigrants. They are always willing to help. So I asked one of them to pick up my mail because I was not able to walk down the hall and get on the elevator the first week l was home. The aide was wonderful and helped me bathe and cleaned. It's amazing how much you can get done in 2 hours. I called someone who lives down the block from me - we are not great friends but since I know him a long time I thought he would be willing to pick up a few things at the store and visit me. He was happy to do it. After two weeks I was more mobile and didn't need as much help. I never had to call my 6 friends for help - they were willing but didn't live as close. It made me aware of just how vulnerable I am. I think there are a lot of communities where people will help each other. My friend moved to las vegas and got sick there. Most of his friends were new friends he made there and they rallied around him and took care of him. But you do have to let people know you need heip. And be willing to help others. Sometimes just a little bit of help makes all the difference. I think if you belong to a church or go to a senior center you should be able to get some assistance.

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    1. Thanks, Donna. Asking for help is the hardest part for many of us. As your story makes clear, the people we ask don't have to be lifelong friends, just neighbors or acquaintances. Sure, some will turn you down, not I am willing to be that wouldn't be the typical response. I think we are all hard-wired to want to help others.

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    2. Donna, I think American culture emphasizes the value of close, emotionally intimate relationships (soul mates, BFFs, and emotionally close sibling or parent-child relationships) and devalues more casual relationships as "shallow." But it is these latter relationships that provide the foundation for a sense of community. I'm not surprised that your immigrant neighbors are ready to help; many of them are probably from more traditional cultures that place a greater value on community than we do. Being asked for help may make them feel at home. -Jean

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  4. BTW, I just found an article on Next Avenue about estate planning and long term care for solo agers. Though not directly linked to Jean's post, I think this might help you if you at all interested in the subject. You will have to copy and paste because Google doesn't allow a link within a comment: https://bit.ly/2vES0xt

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    1. Thanks for this, Bob. Very helpful; I'm trying to grapple with these very issues, and appreciate this clear discussion of available resources.

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  5. I agree with Jean for the most part especially when it comes to asking for help and being prepared for a "no" but to keep asking. People need to be needed. I know people that won't ask for help for whatever reason. There seems to be a snow ball effect of negativity. It helps to be clear of what it is that you need. Sometimes the situation requires volunteer help; sometimes it requires paid help. I've lived happily single for >25 yrs. I do have a circle of friends and family with varying skill sets and availability and levels of connection that I lean upon. Reciprocity is key. Recognition of kind acts with a coffee shop gift card, a home-cooked meal, or a bag of home-made cookies never hurts. A simple thank you card goes a long way. I'm thinking of an extended relative who recently underwent a renal transplant after a time of dialysis. Family and friends rallied to provide all kinds of service. No one person was saddled with the whole responsibility. Every one did a little bit. It helped that the person being supported is one of the most kind and loving persons that I know. The other thing I know from working in health care for years - people don't always need help; they need to know that there's help if they need it. That knowledge gives some wind beneath the wings.

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    1. "People need to be needed." So true. That is the power of asking for help. Your problem is made better and someone else gets the emotional benefit of providing help.

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    2. Mona, I like your insight that knowing there's help if you need it provides some "wind beneath the wings." I think the biggest problem for those aging alone is identifying possible sources of help. That often means moving outside our culture's rather narrow definitions of possible helpers. -Jean

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  6. I am very rural. My coworkers all are younger, for the most part, and very busy with their families. I guess I would just move closer to my sons (50 miles away), or move closer to my daughter 2,000 miles away, since her husband works for a University hospital cancer center. I could retire, but do not want to at this time. However, a life bump could force the issue. I tend to be able to move easily, and shrug my shoulders and adjust. I guess the question is, would my kids adjust....lol

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    1. My only advice...find out before you move! You sound pretty adaptable and that is key.

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    2. Rural living definitely poses greater challenges for aging in place. I've been working on my 'Plan B' for when I can no longer sustain my rural lifestyle.

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  7. While I've already indicated that I find the term a bit abhorrent, the term "elder orphan" in its truest sense means an older person who perceives themselves as (most likely) having "no one." Notice I use the word "perceive." Notice I say "most likely." Perceptions about the availability of others can vary and can be accurate or inaccurate. Feeling that others "most likely" won't be available can prove true or false. I wouldn't advocate deliberately testing availability, or testing it falsely, but sometimes real occasions provide answers about availability. Once when I had bought a car, I needed a ride from work to go pick it up. I asked a co-worker and his wife who I knew drove approximately that way home. The distance and time was short, but later I thought I should have just walked, as he made several semi-under the breath cracks about having to go slightly out of his USUAL way home and ALL the traffic he was having to encounter. (LOL if you could see our small town traffic with 4 way stops mostly). After I detected his reaction to such an incredibly small "favor," I would never consider him as available again. As Bob also indicated, checking things out ahead of time is thus wise, and perhaps especially with distant family. This is absolutely essential before doing something drastic like moving to be closer to be able to rely on them. The nature of the pre-existing relationship would be critical to consider. Also, critical to reflect on are the specific and general reasons why an elder person might want, seek, or need others to be available. Medical concerns, for me, and perhaps for others, leap to the forefront. On the other hand, in the Elder Orphans FB group I recall a woman in TOTAL despair because she had no one to watch movies with. I don't even like to watch movies with other people. I go alone to afternoon matinees OR more typically rely on Netflix snuggled comfortably alone at home. I recently attended Senior Day at our County Fair (an annual event) and was reassured to find, albeit a service from a nearby town, that would provide non-medical, at home attendants (assistants) for an unbelieveably reasonable hourly fee--with a two hour minimum. As someone commented above, I speculated how many of my small chores in need of doing, could handily be done in two hours--small things which might tax me if medically laid up. Also, having "no one" needs to be precise. Having a circle of friends and relatives among whom one can parse and spread out "needs" is not being an elder orphan, nor is having 100 acquaintance co-workers to email to sieve for help! Having no one could be likened to having a roulette wheel in your mind, but the ball has no place to place to favorably land. If one has to spend hours contemplating who could be called because of an anticipated need (for example an upcoming medical appointment from which you shouldn't drive home), you may be an elder orphan. Another factor, which has been pointed out, is to what degree you "joyfully" are willing to help others, how regularly or repeatedly. Recently I assisted a woman for her needs while in the hospital, running several errands, purchasing her items for which I didn't ask reimbursement, picking up her mail, etc, BUT THEN she concluded, "Oh good, I'm wondering if when I get out you can drive me to my follow-up appointments (150 mile round trips)." I felt a bit of a heel ultimately, to say no, although I had the context of knowing she had both co-workers and family who could also help. Had she been truly "without others" perhaps I might have stepped up.

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    1. I totally understand this. I have a friend, who continually relies on another friend, instead of her husband, who is perfectly capable, and her son, who is nearby. She has put a severe strain on their friendship.
      Several years ago, I was also the "friend" who went to the hospital with another friend, while she had her breast removed, so that her mother could cook Thanksgiving Dinner for her family(while my own kids did not get Thanksgiving Dinner because I was at the hospital with her)..... I did her work constantly (we were in the same profession and both had private practices), and helped her financially, when she had very wealthy parents who could have helped her. When I finally said, no, because I really could not go 80 miles round trip, do her job, and my job, and tend to my own family, she talked ugly about me, as did her mother. Folks believed I was not helping like I should because we were friends. It really hurt, and it really hurt my reputation also. However, I finally decided that I did my best, and I kept helping when I could, so I have a clear conscience and no regrets. She died of Cancer about three years later. My whole point of this is it is good to help, but we do not have to be a doormat, even if someone has a terrible disease. We are human and we have to set boundaries, so that we take care of ourselves and our families.

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    2. I think American culture's emphasis on a small circle of close, intimate relationships with family members and friends who should meet all our needs results in this kind of behavior (and people reasonably feeling taken advantage of). This is why I want to encourage single elders to re-think their ideals of friendship and develop more extensive networks of less close friends.

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    3. I really hate to start a gender argument, honestly, but I sometimes think people in need are far more comfortable with asking women for help than for men. We are seen as the nurturing gender and I think it's true.

      Also, someone touched on overuse by friends/acquaintances in need. This can also be a problem. You reach out to help and slowly you find yourself completely ensnared in someone's life. It can be a balancing act.

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    4. Anonymous et al --What I observe sometimes is that as a life long single I've accepted (adjusted or adapted) to doing things on my own, without appealing to others. For example, I've had friends who say, "I need to take my car in for an oil change and rotation on Monday and my husband, son, daughter can't do it, so will you (since you are obviously "free" and retired) come with me with your car so I won't be stuck their half the morning." Well--no I don't feel like doing that, because for similar type things I take my Kindle. or as I did for a recent air bag recall/replacement which took FOUR hours, I took a lunch, and a book bag full of all the back issues of the AARP newsletters and magazines I had never read. I decluttered my home, merrily jotted notes to myself from items of interest, and tossed all the paper waste into Subaru's recycling bin. Of course, an alternate view would be I missed a chance to "build a network." But here's the high probability of what I might get if I asked for a little quid pro quo--"I'm sorry, my son, daughter has soccer camp all day, all next week, and I can't help--you do know I would, but I'm just SO busy with my family or I'd be glad to help." Ha ha!

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  8. As I understand it Jean is not saying that all of her circle is "close friends" .and that's the point. I actually have family close to me, who would help me out. But they have their own lives, family and work and I would not rely only on them any more than I would for day to day companionship. And I moved closer to be near to them rather than to depend on them. Which is why as someone who has moved more than once in Retirement, I have always searched out people with whom I can socialize. Are all these folks my closest friends? Nowhere near. But they are friends, and among those friends are folks whom I have helped and would help me. Meeting those people is not always easy, but it can be done. I am also part of a faith community which brings an additional level of support, as well as willing to help others out at the level I would hope to be helped.

    It's worth mentioning that as I recall, Jean lives in a fairly rural area. While it works for her, when folks, single or otherwise choose where to live it's worth considering any many factors. I live in a town with free transport and medical transport for seniors, that has both a garden gang and a senior shoveling program, and strong senior support that offers things like senior lunch socials. While theses bennies are not a substitute for any of the suggestions above, they can be very helpful f or seniors, single or otherwise. Both in terms of the social and in terms of support.

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  9. I found an article that might add to our discussion. Cut and paste this link to a piece on being single, childless, with a plan for aging well: https://nyti.ms/2GqhK51

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    1. My children suggested a life bracelet after I fell when I was alone. Since I don't actually live entirely alone, I laughed it off. If I were alone completely, I would probably wear a bracelet for safety. At least at home alone. I've mentioned this over at my blog a couple of times, but two of my dallas pals have a chain. Phyl calls Cath when she wakes up, and Cath calls Phyl at bedtime. It works for them.

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  10. I read the above article in NYT before Bob posted the link. Interestingly it gave me information about something I had discussed recently with a long distance friend, which is the "life alert" type ads that are designed to instill fear in those living alone and those who may be trying to care take for them. As I commented to my friend, first I no longer have a land line, and secondly I don't think I'd be too keen on wandering around the house with a clunky necklace around my neck (although some companies do, for an extra fee, offer cell phone service instead, and some have watch like devices--but still one is chained to a device.). I further commented that what I would like to see is some sort of "check in service" or "check on service" in which, if the service didn't get an acknowledgement from you in X time frame, then an alert would be generated. I had such an informal system set up with a long distance former school mate a year or so back. We emailed regularly, and if he did not hear from me in X days, or if I then did not respond to a text message or phone call, and I had not told him I was away on a trip, THEN, he would contact the local police to come check on me. I do not have in my personal life anyone who I am in regular contact on a daily, or even weekly basis, except through email, and as everyone knows, sometimes the regularity of email contacts fluctuates. Unfortunately, my former school mate and I had a severe political clash in this last election, and we didn't continue our correspondence! I didn't have anyone else who was as puncutal and responsive about emails, so I didn't find a replacement. The point I'm getting to is that the NYT article mentions an App called EyeOn App, which can be set up to signal three designated phone numbers IF you do not respond to a scheduled message within X amount of time. Apparently the charge for the App is a one time charge, and I haven't checked into what it is yet, BUT I imagine it must be cheaper than the 50-60.00/month with a mandatory 2-3 year contract that some of the "life alert" type services offer. I've definitely put it onto my list to check into this. It is pretty close to what I was hoping someone would invent! Also, there may be other similar services I haven't heard of. One problem with it, for me, is that the one family "closest" to me locally doesn't to my knowledge have a cell phone! I'm not sure the app works with landline numbers.

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    1. I text my friend every morning. If she doesn't hear from me and is unable to reach me she will call my sister who has my keys. I have a friend who fell in her apartment and could not move or reach the phone. She was on the floor for 3 days. A neighbor realized that she hadn't seen her and called the police because noone had her keys. If you live alone you really need someone who checks on you.

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    2. Several towns in Maine now offer check-in services for elderly residents as a town service. Typically, those who sign up for the service call to check in each day. If they haven't called by a certain time, the service calls them. If there is no answer, police are dispatched to do a welfare check. I really like this idea, especially for those of us who would prefer not to burden one friend or family member with this responsibility.
      I've known two people with Life Alert, and both found that it made them feel safer at a time when medical issues made it more difficult for them to live alone. One was my mother, who got the system after she was widowed; because she was low-income, it was subsidized by the state and was affordable. She used it to call for help after the first symptom of a brain tumor suddenly rendered her partially paralyzed and unable to get out of her chair. The other is a close friend with Parkinson's Disease and a resulting tendency to fall. The back-up system for getting help makes it possible for her to continue living alone in her house.

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  11. I liked this post, very useful information. It encouraged me to ask a woman I have gotten to know in a course I am taking if she would like to do some things with me. I named two places I am planning to go this week and she wants to do both! I am fairly new to this city and haven't made any friends yet (which does not actually bother me a great deal). She is also a retired single who moved here from out of state to be closer to grandchildren. Whether that eventually translates into providing help or support for each other, I don't know, but I believe we will enjoy each other's company. Maybe that kind of misses the point of the post, but thank you Jean and Bob for giving me some courage to take that step. It doesn't come easily to me. I am pretty independent and use to going places and doing things alone.

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    1. Thanks, Barbara. I'm an introvert with strong solitary tendencies, but I'm finding that as I do more of it, it is getting easier and easier for me to make overtures of friendship.

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  12. A good exchange of ideas and concerns. Thanks, again, to Jean for her guest post, and all those who left such thoughtful comments.

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