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Elder Orphans: The Challenges of Aging Without Family

Media portrayals often show a large group of family members who assist with the daily care and support of an aging family member. What happens when an elder person doesn’t have a close family circle to help manage their extended care needs? “Elder orphans” have been defined as seniors who are living independently but lack the support of family or close friends. Currently, there are more than 13.3 million individuals who fit this category.

Social isolation is a key issue for elder orphans, along with the possible onset of stress, anxiety, and depression due to a limited social group. An elder orphan may decline in health simply because family members are not available to perform routine wellness checks. A lack of access to transportation places aging adults at risk if they are unable to access health care or basic necessities such as groceries or prescription drugs.

What are some ways to resolve these concerns? Creating a social network, both on and offline, adds to the aging experience and offers emotional support. All aging adults should establish legal documents with attorneys and financial planners to make their intentions clear, thus removing potential anxieties about who makes monetary and care decisions on their behalf. Creative methods of social outreach can connect an elder orphan with like-minded members of their community, including hobby groups, classes, and volunteer opportunities – all of which can build a deeper social circle.

For more information about how elder orphans can maintain an independent and functional lifestyle, please visit Elder Orphans – An Increasing and Vulnerable Population and Four Tips to Help Seniors Overcome Social Isolation.