Research done by Maria Torroella Carney, Chief of Geriatric and Paliative Medicine at Northwell Health of Great Neck New York , shows 1 in 5 Americans currently over 65 either already are, or at risk of becoming, an elder orphan. Dr. Carney further predicts that 23% of Baby Boomers will be without family caretakers.
Marriage and children don’t necessarily protect you from becoming an orphan. You may divorce, outlive your spouse, or your spouse may have greater needs than your own requiring them to move into long term care while you remain at home. Adult children may be long distance caregivers or be occupied with their own children and grandchildren. Not many plan to retire in their 60’s to assume the role of caring for their parents who may be in their 80’s, 90’s or 100’s.
In her book “How We Live Now: Redfining Home and Family in the 21st Century”, Dr. Bella DePaulo, found that women who never married and never had children often had a larger social network. These networks had a protective effect. They were able to depend on their network of friends.
What can you do if you find yourself alone?
- Consider what is important to you as you age. Do you live in the city with adequate public transportation or an area that requires a car? Over 55 communities, co-housing, or sharing your home or moving into someone else’s are all options. Discard the idea of what “is supposed to be”. Continue to create your best life.
- Get your paperwork in order. Find someone who you trust to be your healthcare proxy to make decisions for you if you become unable. If you don’t have a close friend to rely on consider an Elder Care Professional or an Elder Care Lawyer. Communicate your wishes to your doctor. Write your Will so you are in control of how your assets will be distributed. Learn more by clicking here.
- Create a social network. Remain active in your religious, veteran, or volunteer organizations. Not a member-consider joining a group. Create your own group with other people without family or family nearby.
There are 100’s of elder orphans that live in Rhode Island nursing homes. Many have simple wishes-a sweater, sweatpants, candy, slippers, toiletries. Consider “adopting” an elder orphan residing in a local nursing home. Find a list of facilities by clicking here.