Why we need more services for those without family
September 8, 2016
By Carol Marak
Thriving in a place that’s safe and comfortable, surrounded by cozy memories, is a natural desire of older adults. We treasure independence and want a space to call our own, and we prefer that place to reflect the person we’ve become. We understand that aging bids compromise, and once 65 hits, the changes bring reminders that we’re no longer the same. We don’t move as quickly, we don’t multitask as well, nor do we easily adapt. Those are the simple cues. As we age, the physical and mental challenges delivered through loss, immobility and dependence are the ones that put us at higher risks.
Who Is an Elder Orphan?
However, the effects of aging land harder on an “elder orphan,” because the worry and concern of “what will become of me if I can’t care for myself?” triples when no one is around. An elder orphan has no adult children, spouse or companion to rely on for company, assistance or input. About 29 percent (13.3 million) of noninstitutionalized older persons live alone. The majority of those are women (9.2 million, vs. 4.1 million men).
The stresses of living alone will likely worsen for the boomers as a group since we have fewer children, more childless marriages and more divorces compared to earlier generations.
I am an elder orphan — on my own to decide where, and how, I age.
I am alone with my dog and don't know where to turn. I fear becoming homeless, and I am scared to death.
— member of Elder Orphan Facebook group
And it’s the reason I launched the Elder Orphan Facebook group. In just a few months, it’s grown to over 1,100 members. Each person joined for different reasons, but primarily to find community, connection and support — my particular motives for starting the group. Here, we talk about what’s on our minds and state our doubts.