Care for ourselves or our parents is often provided by family members. In fact, 80% of home care is given by one or more members of the family. But what happens if there isn’t family available? No spouse, no children nearby (or none at all) — this is the world of Elder Orphans.
They may live full and active lives. But when it comes to making plans for this chapter of their lives, most of this growing population is dangerously unprepared. This is a tricky segment of people to even properly identify, so most reports are subjective. Still, this is still an important aging phenomenon that needs our attention.
Elder Orphans are Aging Alone
Let’s start by understanding how one becomes part of this growing category of seniors. For starters, understand that it can be totally voluntary. For example, a person may be happily single in their later years, thoroughly enjoying the freedom and privacy living alone affords them. Or they chose to build a life without children.
On the other hand, this may not be the life they originally signed up for. The death of a lifelong spouse or a divorce can leave someone surprisingly single when they need someone most. Even if they have children, they may live too far away to provide regular, consistent home care. Sometimes, parents are estranged from their kids.
As you can see, a variety of circumstances can lead to becoming an elder orphan. Regardless of how they got here, there are specific and unique challenges they’ll have to manage. And, like so many long term care issues, ignoring them doesn’t change the needs they create down the road.
Financial Insecurity and Health Concerns
There are a number of groups in Facebook that have sprung up in response to growing needs. The most popular one, Elder Orphans – Aging Alone, has over 9,000 members! The group serves as a resource for information to its members and also provides some emotional support.
The group conducted an informal survey, as reported by the Washington Post. Of the 500 people who responded, 70% revealed that they had not identified a person who could take care of them when they could no longer care for themselves.
Respondents shared some of their most pressing fears for their future:
- 25% worried about losing their housing
- 23% reported having at least one incident in the past year where they lacked enough money to cover basic needs
- 40% admitted to struggling with depression
The Power of Community
To prepare to be an elder orphan, you must establish a strong, supportive community, way in advance of need. You need to have brutally frank, explicit, frequent conversations with friends, family, and all fiduciaries about your wishes. My husband and I have taken this advice. We live in a Continuing Care Retirement Community, even though we’re both active and in great health. In addition to knowing each others wishes. Our fiduciaries know our wishes. We tell friends of our wishes.
As for the financial concerns… long term care expenses can be manageable and affordable, with the proper planning. The time for planning is Now. You don’t have to navigate your future alone. The resources you or your parents will need are well within your grasp.
When you’re ready to take that first step, click here to receive a free, no-obligation quote for your own long term care insurance policy.