Statistically, if you are a woman, you will end your life living alone. I don’t have to find you actual facts and figures to prove this, because it is common knowledge that women tend to live longer than men. There are exceptions of course, and good luck to those men who manage to beat nature’s algorithm.
As a woman, don’t you think you should make some preparations for those last years?
1. First of all, you need to stop relying on the man to do stuff, because when he isn’t there any longer, those tasks won’t get done. Start finding ways to manage. Do it yourself if possible. If it is a skill you need to learn such as using an electric drill, get someone to show you how. If no one obliges, don’t worry; you can find instructions on anything and everything on Youtube. Expand your skill base while you can.
2. Practice being assertive on the telephone. Instead of putting the phone down immediately when you get that scam call, make it an opportunity to develop an argument. This may be an entirely alien thing for you to do, but believe me, it will come into good use when you need to demand better workmanship from builders who think you might be a pushover.
3. Stand up for decency in your neighborhood. Make your voice count. Join your local council or a charity board. Become more active in your local church, volunteer at the food bank. Don’t allow yourself to drift into being one of the anonymous elderly behind closed doors. Unless you make a start on expanding your network, you may find your connections to the local community become unhitched, and you need to take these active steps now to counter loneliness.
4. It is particularly important to maintain outside links if you have spent time at home caring for a disabled or frail partner. Life can be overwhelming in this role and you may find your personality starting to shrink. It is vital that you get some respite. Find local help from sitters or carers so that you can manage to get out now and then, perhaps to get your hair done, or to meet up with a friend in a coffee bar.
5. Become proficient with the internet. It is almost impossible these days to organize anything without these skills. Your local community may run free classes on setting up email and other essential skills. So many elderly have become even more isolated in recent months during the pandemic because they were incapable of using technology and thought that it was probably beyond them to learn. I have an aunt who is 94 years old who designs and prints birthday cards for the family. Not only does this give her great pleasure, but it helps her keep in touch with relatives. It is never too late to learn.
6. Make sure you know where important things are. I am talking here about electricity meters, water inlets, utility points. Know how to turn the water off in case of leaks. It might sound like a small thing, but you won’t think it is small when water is pouring through your ceiling. Keep an easy-to-locate list of tradesmen available for emergencies.
7. If you don’t know them already, make friends with your neighbors. If you need urgent help with anything, they are the nearest to you and will be the quickest to respond. Of course, you would do the same for them if necessary. Maybe you could offer to feed their cat when they are away for a weekend. Chances are, the cat spends plenty of time in your garden in any case.
8. Even if your partner has normally taken care of the finances, take the time to learn how to access the accounts, note down passwords, know where to find all relevant papers. On the death of a partner, many women are left completely at sea. A friend of mine, who lost her husband, took almost two years to locate important information because it was locked on his laptop and she did not know the password.
It is well worth checking these points from time to time.
The loss of a partner is hugely stressful and life-changing, especially if the partnership has been over many years or decades, but you can help bridge the transition to single life by being prepared.