“’Elder orphans’ is a new term coined to describe 22 percent of Americans over the age of 65 who lack someone, like a family member to take care of them.”
Roughly 66% of those over 65 need some form of long-term care help, and the majority will depend on a spouse, partner, or their children for assistance.
WFMZ TV’s recent article, “The single senior life: Elder orphans,” asks “what if they have none of the above?”
While you're still healthy, you should make plans, in the event you find yourself in need of the help that is traditionally provided by a family member. There are solutions, but they require planning.
The first step is to hire an elder law attorney to create the documents to protect you, if you become incapacitated. Designate a friend, a physician, or clergy member to make medical decisions and detail your wishes for your healthcare.
Anyone 18 years or older should have at least a durable power of attorney and a healthcare surrogate.
The next task is to consider where you want to live, like a neighborhood that is near public transportation, so you are not housebound. Begin looking at senior communities or assisted living facilities, and home-help services.
A somewhat unique strategy is to “adopt” a family, where a single elderly person agrees to leave his assets to a family who will help as they age and until they pass. Be careful about the family you select, to avoid any elder financial abuse.
Another way to stay connected is via social media, like Facebook. Carol Marak, the editor of SingleCare, started a group for elder orphans. The group already has more than 35,000 members.
It's critical that you develop a social network. Think about becoming a member of a class, volunteering somewhere, or taking up a hobby—something that will give you regular exposure to a new group of people on an on-going basis.
Some people who do have families lack close connections with their own flesh and blood, and if that is the case, while you may not be an elder orphan, you still need to create a plan to protect yourself as you age.
Reference: WFMZ TV (March 7, 2019) “The single senior life: Elder orphans”