Most retirees want to live independently as long as possible. But it’s important to have realistic expectations of what you’ll be able to do on your own as you grow older. According to a University of Michigan survey of 8,000 seniors, 31% of respondents between the ages of 80-89 said they could live independently. That number dropped to just 4% for those over 90. If you’re hoping to live independently by staying in your home—or moving to a condo or townhouse in a retirement community—you’ll need to think about how you may eventually need to adapt your dwelling to accommodate physical limitations that naturally occur as you age. Fortunately, there are plenty of companies that specialize in installing stairlifts and making bedrooms and bathrooms wheelchair accessible. Mobile devices and smart-home technologies make it easier to get immediate help if an emergency occurs. If you’re living on your own, it’s also important to develop and maintain a multi-tiered social network of people who can help you—and whom you can help in return. Family, friends, neighbors and members of your house of worship can all play different roles in this network. Try also to build strong, mutually beneficial relationships with one or two younger people who are willing to help you during emergency situations. And make sure to formally designate people you trust to serve as your financial and healthcare proxies if and when you’re no longer able to make these critical decisions on your own.
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