Many people fall into the elder orphan segment. In fact, research suggests that close to one-quarter of Americans 65 and older could end up with no family to care for them. This makes sense when you consider the fact that one-third of people between the ages of 45 to 63 are single.
Just last night, before falling asleep, the thought of being old, on my own, set off a fear that rarely rears its head.
What started the mind-chatter was the idea of surviving on Social Security, an oxymoron, no doubt. Honestly, I’m not sure how single people, living alone, manage to survive on it!
According to Maria Torroella Carney, MD, of the elder orphan study, single older adults with no family are vulnerable to a broad range of adverse outcomes, including functional decline, mental health issues and even premature death.
Based on my own research, I would add financial instability, stress and potential legal issues – all described in this article – to this list.
According to Dr Carney, “This is a population that can utilize expensive health care resources because they don’t have the ability to access community resources while they’re well but alone… If we can provide earlier social services and support, we may be able to lower high healthcare costs or prevent the unnecessary use of expensive health care. With greater awareness and assessment of this vulnerable population, we can then come up with policies to impact and manage better care for them.”
Now that the elephant is out in the open, let’s break down each issue, one at a time. It’s easier to face and digest in smaller chunks than trying to absorb at once.
The issues will break into several posts on Sixty and Me, starting off with this overview.
Dr. Maria Carney, the research academic, has agreed to answer my questions about planning and preparing for the inevitable on health care concerns. I invite you to join the conversation!
As I unveil the hard topics, I’ll reach out to experts like Carney and others who will give us concise direction on a few of the above issues like functional decline, premature death, and mental health concerns.
It’s my intention to make this series as interactive as possible. So, please place queries in the comments below and I’ll find the experts and thought leaders to answer them.
For those living alone, without a partner, spouse, or children close by, I invite you to join the Elder Orphan Facebook Group. Here we share resources, support, and tips. I expect more as we move forward.
What questions do you find disturbing when living alone as an older adult? What do you worry about most when it comes to being an elder orphan? Please join the conversation.