Circle the wagons pioneers, elder orphans are coming!
Is this now a thing? Baby boomers who are childless and unmarried are going to become “elder orphans” who have no one to care for them in old age. The fact that we’re living longer and have fragmented families puts us at risk of being all alone in our not so golden years…orphaned.
The case of the 81-year-old cancer patient who called 911 because he needed someone to buy him food has put a lot of folks on notice that this elder orphan thing is real. As more boomers fall into this demographic, it’s not just a matter of struggling with isolation and depression. It’s going to put a strain on the health care system. Who will make decisions for these orphans when no family member or caregiver is available? When health issues turn into crises, the elder orphans end up in the emergency room, which we all know is not the ideal way to receive healthcare. Ideally, these elder orphans would have some sort of healthcare plan that would prevent the health crisis in the first place.
According to the latest census, one-third of Americans currently between the ages of 45 to 63 are single. That represents a 50 per cent increase from 1980. Lots of them may have children who will look out for their care, but a large number of them may have no clue to their vulnerability (or just don’t want to think about it).
So what should you do to prevent becoming an elder orphan? Number one, get yourself an advanced directive so it’s clear how you want to be treated. Number two, find and designate an advocate who will make decisions if you are unable to. Number three, and the not so easiest part, create a strategy. A distant relative, a younger friend, or someone you trust needs to know what your plan is.
And one more thing. Start living for today because tomorrow may not be nearly as much fun.