A growing number of seniors are facing old age solo, but elder orphans who have no spouse, children or close relatives nearby to rely on for help are banding together to support one another and using Facebook as a platform to improve their quality of life.
The Facebook group, moderated by Carol Marak, 67, was created in February 2016 and it’s members have grown in number to 8,000 seniors over 55 who are unmarried and without nearby children. The group offers members support, advice and a strong social connection many older adults living alone may lack. The group, Elder Orphans, also organizes local meet-ups where members can get together in person and enjoy shared activities.
As the baby boomer generation reaches retirement age, the number of seniors aging without a partner or children is growing. According to research from Northwell Health’s Geriatric and Palliative Medicine in New York, 22 per cent of seniors over the age of 65 are either an elder orphan or at risk of becoming one. And by 2030, an estimated 16 per cent of women aged between 80 to 84 will be childless, a significant increase from 12 per cent in 2010.
Even if older adults aren’t on Facebook or other social media, it’s important for single seniors to create a community they can rely upon when they need help. Sometimes that may mean making a move into new living accommodations where there will be other older adults to connect with and create a mutually beneficial alternative family. Being able to walk to stores and participate in activities when driving is no longer possible is also important in proactively planning for old age without a spouse or nearby children.
Aging Solo, a website that is designed to help childless baby boomers plan for old age, is currently under construction and will soon help connect aging solo seniors with new friends and help fight the loneliness and uncertainty of aging alone.
Single seniors without a family to help out can improve their well-being by staying connected with their communities through places of worship, participating in classes at local recreation centers or joining a seniors center. Volunteering is also a great way to interact with others and develop meaningful relationships while creating a network of friends that can pitch in when help is needed. Paid professionals, sometimes referred to as geriatric care managers, are also available to help older adults coordinate in-home care and housekeeping, act as a health care proxy or accompany seniors to doctor appointments.