Who Will Take Care of Me When I'm Old?

Plan Now to Safeguard Your Health and Happiness in Old Age


By Joy Loverde

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Everything you need to know to plan for your own safe, financially secure, healthy, and happy old age

For those who have no support system in place, the thought of aging without help can be a frightening, isolating prospect. Whether you have friends and family ready and able to help you or not, growing old does not have to be an inevitable decline into helplessness. It is possible to maintain a good quality of life in your later years, but having a plan is essential. Who Will Take Care of Me When I’m Old? equips readers with everything they need to prepare on their own:

  • Advice on the tough medical, financial, and housing decisions to come
  • Real solutions to create a support network
  • Questions about aging solo readers don’t know to ask
  • Customizable worksheets and checklists that help keep plans on course
  • Guidance on new products, services, technology, and resources

Who Will Take Care of Me When I’m Old? goes way beyond estate planning to help readers prepare for all the changes in store. Readers are empowered to make proactive plans for their own lives rather than entrusting decisions to family and community.


Get Real

Almost every day—barring overextended itineraries (mine) and medical emergencies (his)—I log into my computer in the wee hours of the morning to video chat with Martin K. Bayne, my dear and longtime friend. He is an MIT graduate, journalist, and former Buddhist monk. He is also unmarried and childless.

At the peak of his professional career, Marty was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s disease. He was fifty-three. With no other choice but to move into an assisted living community, he knew that this housing decision would challenge him every waking moment to stay alive, let alone remain vital.

For the past sixteen years, he has been at the mercy of a call button that is answered by complete strangers. His fellow residents are on average aged eighty-five years and older, the majority of whom are living with the symptoms of dementia. As his chronic conditions worsen, so goes the freedom to come and go where he wants when he wants. To date, Marty has been “evicted” from three different assisted-living facilities when they can no longer care for him at the level he requires. He is trying desperately to avoid moving into a nursing home.

As a resident of assisted living, what he hadn’t calculated is the depth of the daily, relentless exposure to despair, disease, dementia, dying, and death. That’s where I come in. Marty tells me that he would have given up on living long ago if it were not for our friendship. When we are not talking about what is happening in his world, I do my best to balance the relationship by bringing what is happening on the “outside” to him. By way of my smartphone, Marty and I often take virtual walking excursions to my favorite local attractions. After one such visit to Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo where I paused to greet a gathering of gorillas, he nicknamed me “Fear Swallower.” When I see people walking and playing in the park, I stop and ask them to say hi to Marty. They love it, and of course, their enthusiastic, “Hi, Marty!” greetings make his day. We enjoy these outdoor adventures immensely. I depend on Marty every bit as much as he depends on me. While I offer him companionship and insights into my world of family and work, he is my teacher and voice of reality when it comes to aging alone. “You can’t possibly understand, Joy, what my life is like.” As a relatively younger assisted-living housing “insider,” he says these words to me frequently when he is trying to make a point. He’s right: I can’t possibly understand what his life is like. I have never been that sick and that alone.

“I have no voice,” Marty said to me one morning. I asked him to explain. The night before, he and the administrator of the assisted-living community had a difference of opinion about a particular resident policy. Marty challenged him, saying, “That’s not fair. You get to go home every day at five o’clock, but this is my home.” The administrator stood up, pointed his finger at him, and roared, “This is not your home. You just lease an apartment here like everybody else.” At that moment, Marty realized he was alone, ill, and without the comfort and support of an on-site advocate. His spirit was broken.

Marty never fails to keep me grounded in the realities of aging alone. The essence of each conversation is not the subject matter, but rather the sharing of experiences with someone who genuinely cares about the big and little things in life that you wouldn’t share with just anyone. I know now that if I have a friend like Marty in my life when I am old and alone, I will be able to get through anything that life dishes out. Marty is my trusted lifeline and shows me just how important our relationships are as we age—and how many challenges there can be to sustaining them.

Whether you have a “Marty” in your life right now or not, you have chosen this book for good reason. Perhaps, like Marty, you don’t have children to call upon for help; perhaps you’re like me, married now, and also wondering who will be available, able, or even willing to step in when necessary. But no matter what your situation, you have questions on how your life will change as you grow older. Are you ready for what the upcoming years have in store?

Join the Club

If you are living solo, you are not alone in this trend. One in three baby boomers falls into the category of separated, divorced, widowed, or never married.1 As the numbers continue to escalate, millions of people over the age of sixty-five will require greater assistance because they are aging alone with no known family member or surrogate to act on their behalf.

Committed couples, you aren’t out of the woods, either. If one partner suffers from a chronic illness, the other partner typically represents the first line of defense. However, when both need care simultaneously, all bets are off. As people make their way from adulthood through elderhood, the unmarried category will grow as individuals continue to experience divorce and widowhood.

Nor is being a parent a guarantee that adult children will care for you as you age. Children may choose to move away from parents (even a half-world away) to pursue dreams of their own; and they are also known to return home with little to no resources.

Simply put, you have no idea whether anyone you love and trust today will accompany you on your aging journey or be by your side up to and until you take your final breath. If you currently have a close network of family and trusted friends, and feel confident that they will be there for you any time of the day and night, then count your blessings. As your personal network evolves due to death or other extenuating circumstances, you can continue to use your relationship-building skills to develop new and rewarding alliances. If you prefer a more insular and solitary lifestyle, you may unknowingly be choosing to go it alone during uncertain times.

Let me be clear from the get-go—marriage is not the goal of this book by any means. Aging solo is the conscious choice of many and deserves its rightful status in society. If marriage (and partnering) is not, and has never been, a desire of yours, this would be a good time to update your language when referring to your preferred living situation. The use of the word single implies the state of not being married. To proclaim you live solo is more straightforward and powerful. No matter what you choose, the purpose of this book is to get you ready for old age and help you put your own plans in place so you can live as you want, for as long as possible.

Why This Book?

Who Will Take Care of Me When I’m Old? will change the course of your life, solo or with family. You need not be alone in old age unless you want to be. Also, be open to learning how to anticipate the challenges you’ll face and prepare to meet them early on.

When people ask me when old age begins, I prefer to use the age of ninety as a starting point (you may have other ideas for when old age begins). With diet and exercise, along with medical advances, the idea of living to ninety is not a stretch anymore. By the time we reach our ninth decade, worn-out body parts may subject us to chronic medical conditions, which in turn will affect where and how we live on a day-to-day basis. We can also expect to outlive people in our inner circle of family and friends. When do you think old age begins? Do you believe that it is never too late to plan for a quality old age?

I learned the ropes of planning for old age by spending almost every waking moment of my life surrounded by old people. “You have to fight for what you want,” they tell me. And fight they do. Witnessing the aging of thousands of older adults, I have heard their incredible stories—the good, bad, and sad. I have spent many hours with the dying. The memory of these encounters is what led me to write this book and fill it with the old people’s advice.

I have been a family caregiver most of my adult life, and in 1993 published my first book, The Complete Eldercare Planner, now in its sixth edition. Thousands of readers have told me that my practical tips on looking ahead while managing complex relationships changed the course of their caregiving experience for the better. Since publishing that book, my research and writing on eldercare has evolved beyond caregiving to focus on how people can prepare to care for themselves as they age. I participate in as many webinars, workshops, group discussions, studies, expert panels, and conferences on aging as time allows. I am embedded in a social web that connects me with an expansive and diverse network of industry thought-leaders and mature-market business owners, continually seeking their advice and picking their brains. Extensive travel also allows me to compare experiences as I observe the cultures and traditions of old people worldwide. Above all, I am curious and inquisitive, and have a reputation for seeking ways of pushing the envelope. This includes a daily practice of reading books and any material that expands my outlook on old age. I want to know what others are saying—and doing—at all times about their own aging.

Inevitably, after every one of my keynote presentations, people approach me and express how worried and afraid they are about aging alone in old age. I am in the same boat; but when I think about the old people in my life who are aging alone, and how they know themselves inside and out, and how they flaunt their unshakable confidence when making important decisions, I believe that in my old age, I will have what they have—but it is up to me to put in the effort now. And I believe the same is true for you. You may not have chosen to age solo, but you must own it to succeed at planning for a quality old age.

I have spent years accumulating advice, tried-and-true tips, “secret formulas,” and guiding principles from experts in the aging industry—the old people themselves. They are my truth detectors. Following in their footsteps, I make note of what works when solving the problems associated with aging alone in old age. On that note, here is a brief preview of what you gain from reading this book:

Real solutions for creating a support network

Critical questions you don’t know to ask

Strategies to foster smarter decision-making

Alternative ways to think about old age

Insights for end-of-life planning

Accessibility to innovative products and services

To make this book possible, I have never stopped listening and observing old people. They are the teachers to where we are all headed. To be old is a complicated process; aging is an intricate web of interdependent physical, emotional, financial, and social factors. The willingness to be a lifelong student of the teachings of old age is what keeps me grounded in reality.

The Deal-Breaker

You must promise that from this moment on you will be completely honest with yourself about the fact that you are getting older. Sixty is not the new thirty. Sixty is sixty. Every time you make light of or even deny aging, you create an alternate reality; and subsequently, you are forced to live a life in two different worlds: the one you are fantasizing about and the actual one in which you are living.

Acceptance of your own aging paves the way for breakthroughs of all kinds—lying and deceiving yourself about growing old leads to the exact opposite. Instead of feeling powerless and a victim of circumstance, choose to face old age with self-respect and dignity. Plan ahead. Doing so will serve you in gaining better control of the situation at hand. You are the one and only person you can forever count on.

The aging process can be extremely unkind. Over the years, you may have known people who suffered terribly with chronic and emotional pain. Perhaps you watched helplessly when someone you loved plummeted into the darkness of depression or dementia. Witnessing the aging and dying process changes you.

You Are Here

The old people in my life often tell me how peaceful they feel in the moment. They tell me their work is done. They have accomplished what hopefully you are about to do: remain true to the realities of old age. They are honest with themselves. They ask for and accept help. They know what is important and what is a waste of time. They feel fear and take action anyway. Above all, they do not wait for a crisis.

Now It’s Your Turn

Everything I have learned from my wise elder friends is what I wish for you today—that ailments do not depress you, that you are quick to laugh and even quicker to forgive, and that you are happiest of all when you are on the receiving end of tokens of love and kindness from others who genuinely care about you. You’ve got a friend in me.

—Joy Loverde

Don’t Read This Book.
Work It.

This book was born of the unsettling question … who will take care of me when I am old?

“Downright terrified” and “scared of being old and alone” is how thousands of people describe their endgame. No doubt, this book will stir similar emotions. Catch your breath, and then move on. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

You alone know the truth as to why you are holding this book in your hands in the first place. You alone will have to find ways to keep yourself motivated—to read this book from cover to cover, to face the realities of aging alone in old age, to explore solutions to your unique problems, to create action steps, then to respond to new and unexpected circumstances that force you to go back and adjust your plans. I promise not to waste your time with unnecessary busywork. Everything about this book is purpose-driven.

How you read this book matters not. Whether you choose to cozy up for hours on your favorite reading chair, catch a paragraph or two on the run, or download the electronic version, keep in mind that Who Will Take Care of Me When I’m Old? is not a book to read once and put aside. The messiness of the aging process will demand that you continuously revisit the book’s content as your circumstances evolve.

The book is divided into five main categories:

Part One: Personal Readiness

Part Two: Where You Live Matters

Part Three: Ties That Bind and Unwind

Part Four: Safety Nets

Part Five: No Tomorrow

Read the chapters in any order that works for you. To make it easy on what you can expect to read and accomplish, review the “Objectives” list offered at the beginning of each chapter. The end of each chapter offers a list of Insights and Inspiration. These are books, movies, songs, and TED Talks that go beyond the resources offered within each chapter. I’ve shared these with you to offer other perspectives and fresh takes on each chapter’s theme.

Planning requires staying organized. Make good use of the worksheets and checklists recommended throughout the book. Suggested action plans will also contribute to your ability to stay on track. Downloading forms from my website—www.elderindustry.com—allows you to customize the content. The index at the back of the book makes it easy for you to find and refer to the desired content again and again.

As a reader of this book, you will benefit greatly by being computer and Internet savvy. This allows you to take full advantage of the online resources offered throughout. If you currently are not a home computer user, seek assistance at your local public library where free computers and basic computer instructions are available or, consider hiring a home-based “computer tutor.”

Social media are a comprehensive source for support and information. Use the suggested keywords to search topic-related blogs, Twitter (www.twitter.com), and Pinterest (www.pinterest.com). Facebook (www.facebook.com) connects you to others who are experiencing similar situations. Specialty Facebook groups may be posted as “closed” due to privacy needs, but ask to join anyway. Requests to join are typically recognized quickly. My own social media accounts may be a great place for you to start:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/joy.loverde

Instagram: www.instagram.com/joyloverde

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/joyloverde

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/joyloverde

Twitter: https://twitter.com/joyloverde

Website: www.elderindustry.com

The last section of the book, “Cross It Off Your List,” will help you pull it all together. As you complete tasks, check off the boxes. Doing this will give you greater peace of mind that you are making progress toward accomplishing your personal goals.

Finally, everybody ages differently. Some of what is written in this book will apply to your situation and some will not. Take what works for you and leave the rest. There is something here for everyone. You ultimately decide how to go about integrating the action steps into your life. Do not take the content offered in this book at face value. When necessary, tweak the information to customize your unique life plan.

Part One

Personal Readiness

Meet Your Future Self

Discovering who you have yet to become


After completing this chapter, “Meet Your Future Self,” you will be able to:

• Use time travel as a strategy to plan ahead

• Face the truth of family and friends coming to your rescue

• Explore your readiness for taking action

• Connect with your future self

If I could, I would hand you a crystal ball so you can see how your life ultimately pans out. You would know if all of your dreams come true. You would know if you have no regrets at the end of your life. You would know how and when you die. You would know the destiny of the people you care about. You would know if you have enough money to sustain you for the rest of your life. And best of all, you would have the knowledge and wherewithal to do things differently right now to make everything turns out the way you would like.

Surviving uncertainty is something you and I do every day. We never know from one day to the next what surprise lurks around the corner. No more clinging to illusions of safety and security, because there are none. In spite of how real life continues to play out, we can bank on putting our innate skills and talents to use to weather disorienting storms of any kind. But I have much higher hopes for us all than mere survival. Thriving is the ultimate goal.

With old friends by my side teaching me the ropes along the way, all things are possible. What I am most looking forward to in my old age is looking back and saying, “It’s been a great ride.” How about you? Are you ready to start planning?

Crank Up the Time Machine

“For a quality of life, plan ahead,” suggest the experts. That has always been my mantra. For the longest time, my process of planning would include reading books, making notes, establishing action plans, prioritizing challenges, and checking the boxes when tasks were complete. Whenever answers are black and white, that formula still holds true. However, when I need answers to more complex situations, I use an entirely different approach. Here is an invaluable planning lesson that was taught to me years ago by one of my most cherished elder friends.

I had spent twenty years working in the advertising industry. The time was right for me to take my career in another direction. I wanted to focus my attention to causes that offered more meaning and purpose in my life. Not knowing which way to turn, I sought the advice of one of my favorite elders. We made a date to meet in person.

During our time together, I explained that I was at a crossroads in my career and my life in general. My elder adviser listened patiently up to a point; then, she interrupted me and her unstoppable line of questioning began: What were you like as a teenager? What did you learn about the advertising business? When did you know that you wanted to be in business for yourself? Did you have a childhood pet? What makes you sad? Where do you want to be one year from now? What do your parents do for a living? Who do you care about? What’s the problem you are trying to solve?

The room started spinning. My heart was beating faster and faster. I started squirming and couldn’t sit still. What is going on? What do these questions have to do with anything? Where is this all going? Then something interesting began to happen. I quit fighting the process, and began to trust her. The more I answered her questions the calmer I became—layers of invisible mental barriers began falling by the wayside. By looking back and imagining the future simultaneously, I was slowly revealing myself to me. Everything that I had experienced so far in life—personally and professionally—was leading me to where I needed to go next. And so it was that I came to write my first book about eldercare and family caregiving.

What I learned that day is that everyone has in his or her possession at all times an invaluable planning tool—time travel. While you may be familiar with the concept of “time travel” as a literary and cinematic plot device, my version is a visualization technique you can use to steer in the right direction when you are unsure of which path to take.

At first, you may not realize the power of this slow and steady process. You may even brush off time travel as trivial. Impatience, and fear of the unknown, may drive you to want to come up with answers quickly especially when questions of money, housing, and health weigh heavily on your mind. We’ll get there, but for now, bear with me—this is a process that will help you to get in touch with the bigger picture of where you want to go as you grow older, and better prepare you to make decisions that stay true to your unique wants, needs, and goals.

Remember This. Imagine That.

What fundamental decisions have you made in the past that are impacting the quality of your life today? Can you pinpoint the cause and effect of something that happened earlier in your life that is positively and/or negatively manifesting itself today? Pay close attention. Through time travel you will uncover clues that will ultimately lead you to advocate for your true self in old age.

Looking ahead is not an easy task—there are many unknowns. The process of remembering, on the other hand, is less of an effort. Try the following simple exercise:

Focus on what your life looked like ten years ago. Start by recalling the year, and then answering the questions (it may help you to write down your answers):

What year was it?

Were you working? If yes, where?

Where did you live?

Who lived with you?

What did you value the most?

What brought you the most joy?

Now answer the same questions as you envision your life ten years from today:

What year is it?

Are you working? If yes, where?

Where do you live?

Are you living alone or with others?

What are you valuing the most?

What is bringing you the most joy?

Were you able to answer these questions for yourself in the future? Or do you feel there are too many unknowns to bring the picture into focus? This is where your personal time machine comes into play.

Envisioning ten years from now is difficult, but not impossible. Use your observation skills to draw possibilities from the world around you: this is the time-travel approach. Many possible outcomes are already being played out around you; take the time to watch what is happening to others, and consider whether that could be you. If you see something that you don’t like about where you are headed, commit to make a plan that can change outcomes.

Look for Living Answers

Surround yourself with as many elders as possible (people who appear to be at least ten years older than you are now). As you observe, pay close attention to what you are witnessing. Old people are everywhere. You will find them:

Strolling through the park or zoo

Visiting friends in a nursing home

Attending church services

Riding bikes

Pushing baby strollers

Jogging and working out at the gym

Playing slots at the casino

Socializing at the local senior center

Today’s old people are you


  • "Right on trend. Finally a friendly how-to that brings information and comfort."

    --- Faith Popcorn, CEO Faith Popcorn's BrainReserve
  • "The aging book of the next decade; the 'go-to' book that should be read as a rite of passage into positive aging."

    --- Richard Leider, International bestselling author of The Power of Purpose, Repacking Your Bags, & Life Reimagined
  • "Clear, practical, relevant, vital ... this book engages readers to create their own customizable plan for aging. An exceptionally worthwhile read."

    --- Bob Blancato, Chairman, American Society on Aging
  • "What's the best predictor of a good old age? Not health, not wealth, but a robust social network. Joy Loverde has written an invaluable guide to laying the groundwork for the future you want-the sooner the better."

    --- Ashton Applewhite, author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism
  • "...thoughtfully discusses a wide range of crucial life issues with deep understanding, complete candor, and inspired guidance for all."

    --- David Schless, President, Americans Seniors Housing Association, Washington, DC
  • "This book effectively challenges the notion that aging means disability - and with that, stigma of being old."

    --- Dilip V. Jeste, M.D., Director of the Sam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging, University of California, San Diego
  • "Loverde compellingly shows us that, if we overcome the strong tendency to engage in denial and choose to plan carefully, we can age with a physical, emotional and spiritual safety net of supportive relationships, along with a strong potential for growth and fulfillment."

    --- Ron Pevny, M.A., Director of the Center for Conscious Eldering and author of Conscious Living, Conscious Aging
  • "This book will be the guidepost for all individuals living and growing older, no matter the status or circumstance. I will highly recommend it to my Elder Orphan Facebook group."

    --- Carol Marak, Emerging Aging Alone Expert, Syndicated Columnist, and Chief Public Relations Office at Seniorcare.com
  • "A must-have companion. Combines the critical elements, questions, and tools to make contemplation of and planning for this undesired life stage."

    --- Jackie Pinkowitz, Board Chair, Dementia Action Alliance
  • "Joy reminds us that, by taking proactive steps as we age, we can lay the foundation for an independent, fulfilling, and happy life, and continue to be in control of our circumstances."

    --- Wendi Burkhardt, CEO and Co-Founder of Silvernest, Inc.
  • "Highly recommended for anyone over 60 and their loved ones."

    Library Journal, starred review
  • "There's a lot of help inside Who Will Take Care of Me When I'm Old?...Author Joy Loverde encourages readers to do a lot of prep-work, including a good amount of self-examination...extremely helpful."
    Bookworm Sez, nationally syndicated review column
  • "An empowering resource for people seeking to maintain functioning at the lowest possible level of care."—McKnight's
  • "Loverde's book should be recommended reading for every single person, whether they are concerned about growing older (and you should be concerned) or not. Who Will Take Care of Me When I'm Old? is loaded with practical advice, resources, and action-oriented tasks."—Portland Book Review

On Sale
Oct 24, 2017
Page Count
336 pages

Joy Loverde

About the Author

Joy Loverde is a leading consultant in the senior industry and a trusted advisor in aging and eldercare-related issues. The author of The Complete Eldercare Planner, Joy’s work has been featured on Today, the CBS Early Show, NPR, and in USA Today and the Wall Street Journal. She lives in Chicago.

Learn more about this author