Are you likely to be an “elder orphan”? Here’s what you need to do today

While it’s not something we want to think about too much, at some point everyone must plan for their future

While it’s not something we want to think about too much, at some point everyone must plan for their future – and for old age. All of us, no matter how fit, active and into green smoothies we are will, at some point, require help (or that dreaded word “care”).

But what about those of us who are single and have no children? What will become of us?

Carol Marak, an ageing advocate who works with Senior Care doesn’t have any family to turn to when she gets old. Writing in the Huffington Post, says,”elder orphans” are:

  • The socially and physically isolated aged living in local communities
  • Living without a family member or a designated surrogate
  • More vulnerable to losing the decision-making capacity
  • Only using a few community resources and are lonely
  • Have a high risk of losing independence and safety
  • Aren’t acknowledged (as a group) that will need more attention and care

Women are more likely than men to become elder orphans and, in Australia, more than 20 per cent of women aged over 60 are living alone. This figure creeps up to 40 per cent for women aged 80 and over.

Ms Marak cites a typical case that demonstrates the way elder orphans typically lose their independence: “A 76-year-old New York man, a prototypical elder orphan. [He] arrived at the hospital with cuts on his wrist, bedsores, dehydration, malnutrition, and depression. The man lived alone and hadn’t been in contact with any relatives in over a year. His treatment was complicated and in the end, he landed in a nursing home.”

As someone who has the potential to be an elder orphan, Ms Marak says, “I know that’s not how I want to end up.”

She says it’s essential to plan now for the future to make sure this doesn’t happen to you. Here are some of the tips she shared with Sixty and Me:

  • Adopt a (trusted) family that lives nearby and assign part of your will to them (get advice from a lawyer first)
  • Negotiate long-term care with your nieces and nephews
  • Live in a joint household of trusted “extended” family members and friends and share the care
  • Find a lawyer who specialises in chronic care advocacy
  • Get a will, a living will or other advance directive, a health care proxy, power of attorney and consider long-term care insurance.
  • Plan how you will get around in your later years
  • Have a purpose, get a hobby, eat healthy,
  • Make friends, attend church, join a support group or join a senior centre
  • Get prepared and learn the long-term care costs in your area

“I have enough sense to know that if there’s no solid plan in place, then the chances are good that I may not have the opportunity to live life out as I hope,” says Ms Marak.

Do you have a plan in place for your future? What measures have you put in place to make sure you don’t end up an “elder orphan”?