The awareness of “aging alone” and its potential issues began after my parents’ passing. At the time, I had been a family caregiver to both, my Mother and Father. He lived with Alzheimer’s Disease and Mother lived with a chronic heart condition. They required a lot of hands-on attention and care. If it had not been for my two sisters and me, I quiver to think how they’d get by.
After their passing, it occurred to me that I will have no one to rely on for help, the kind my parents needed. You see, I am not married nor do I have offspring. That was ten years ago, and fast forward to now, I’m in my mid-sixties, living alone, and in good health.
Twenty-nine percent of the 65 plus population live alone, according to the U.S. Census (2015.)
Because there are many individuals in the aging alone predicament, I started a Facebook group called Elder Orphans in 2016. The purpose to start it was strictly selfish on my part. I knew there must be others who crave association and connection.
Today, we are 6700+ strong. We are particular about who qualifies: must meet an age requirement (55+), have no offspring, and no spouse or partner. The members in the group are very adamant and vocal that the requirements be met. Most opt for the “pure” elder orphan mentality.
However, for me, I know many seniors who do have children but the offspring are not available to offer companionship, caregiving, or any other type of connection. What happens to them? They too feel alone, disconnected, and doing everything they can to get by.
It’s my hope that older adults, no matter the circumstances, have their needs for social connection and support met.
Our society thrives on preconceived perceptions. As adults, we’re married with 2.5 children. We own a home, two cars, have a college education, a good job, a savings account and take at least one vacation a year. Did I miss anything? Probably, but you get the idea.
Building awareness for the "aging alone" group hopes to weaken this persistent concept. And if a person doesn’t meet the criteria of normal, then diminish judgement about living differently.
With the help of experts and professionals in aging, the Elder Orphan Project can be a movement to improve growing older in America.