Have you heard the term elder orphan? It’s a term that’s been coined in recent years to describe the growing number of older Americans who don’t have a spouse or children. Some people may be an elder orphan because their spouse has died, or they may have been single all their life.
According to a study conducted in 2016, about 22% of people in the United States fall into this category or are at risk of doing so in the future. Elder orphans may have a range of concerns and unique needs as they age. Some of these may include finding appropriate housing, struggling with medical conditions, maintaining financial independence, meeting basic needs, dealing with depression and anxiety, and combatting loneliness.
If you belong to this group of people, how can you prepare for being alone later in life? Here are some tips:
- Identify a friend or family member that you think might be able to help you as you age.
- Have a conversation with any potential caregivers to assess their willingness and ability to help you. Don’t assume that you’ll be able to rely on them for help.
- If you don’t have a friend or family member, look within your community. Is there a neighbor, church member or volunteers available from local organizations?
- Assess your financial ability to pay for professional caregivers.
- Look for support and ideas online. Join the Elder Orphans Facebook Group. It currently has nearly 10,000 members who are over the age of 55 who live alone without a spouse, partner or children to help them.
- Think about tasks of daily living that you might need help with and tackle each one individually. Afraid you won’t be able to cook, clean or walk your dog? Find out if there’s a Meals on Wheels available in your city or town. What housecleaning companies are in your community? Is there a dog walking service? You may be surprised at what you find!
- Organize all aspects of your life so you know where you stand financially, medically, etc. It’s easier for someone to help you if they’re not walking into a big mess that needs to be taken care of.
- Research different living situations and housing options. There is an increasing variety of arrangements becoming available for individuals like yourself. Benefits may include sharing expenses, companionship, easy access to healthcare professionals, and less burden when it comes to home maintenance, cooking, cleaning etc. because everyone pitches in.
- Realize that you’re not alone in your situation. There are many people just like you who don’t have a spouse or children. Look for them and chances are you’ll find them! Create your own community of elder orphans and join forces to be there for one another.
If you don’t have a spouse or children to help you, being alone in your seventies, eighties and beyond can be a frightening proposition but it doesn’t need to be. Don’t put off the planning process. Begin today to take control of how you will take care of yourself so you can achieve your goal of living well despite being alone in old age.
If you need help planning for the realities of being an elder orphan, Takacs McGinnis Elder Care Law may be able to help. Just give us a call at 615.824.2571.