by – Sheri de Grom
What are the chances you’ll become an elder orphan? Are you 65 or older, without children and alone?
No one knows exactly how many individuals fall into this newly-created medical care category. The theory is that 25% of all Americans over age 65 are at risk of becoming elder orphans or should already be classified as such.
This vulnerable population already exists, but they have no voice or support system. Elder orphans must have advocates. However, their needs must be defined first.
We do know elder orphans are aging alone, with no known family member or designated surrogate to act on their behalf. It’s imperative we determine which community, social services, emergency responses and educational resources can help them.
This population is growing as society ages and life expectancy increases.
The University of Michigan conducted an extensive survey and presented their findings at The American Geriatrics Society’s 2015 Annual Scientific Meeting, May 15-17, 2015. Their conclusion is that without intervention, elder orphans are at the greatest risk of a wide range of negative outcomes that include functional decline, mental health issues and premature death.
This is the population the study fears will utilize the most expensive healthcare resources because they don’t have the ability to access community resources while they’re well but alone.
The 2012 U.S. Census data supports the findings of the increasing number of elder orphans. About 1/3 of all Americans aged 45 to 63 were single, a 50% increase from 1980; nearly 19% of women aged 40 to 44 have no children, as compared to 10% in 1980.
Baby boomers, more than any other generation, have been mobile without much of a backward look. I’ve moved more often than most as part of my career and loved knowing another adventure was always around the corner.
The reality for Tom and me is that someday (probably sooner than we’d like) one of us will be an elder orphan. It doesn’t matter how much pre planning I’ve done, how many extraordinary providers of care I have in place—we’re it. We are a family of two.
Thankfully, we’ve been graced with the most amazing friends and I know they are only a phone call away. They have been there for us time and time again.
How about you, what are your thoughts about this new population of elder orphans? Have you put plans in place to protect your wishes? Is it possible that you could become an elder orphan?