Elder Orphans

I had never heard of the term “Elder Orphans” until recently. There are about 10 million seniors in the U.S. who live alone. Most still have family members, but about 15 percent of seniors who need care have no family support. Even if that percentage remains constant, the sheer number of elder orphans will grow thanks to the massive changes in our population.

Yesterday I heard an interesting program on NPR related to adoption. Scott Simon recounted the challenges of adopting a child in this country if you are “older”.  He detailed how “older people” might have an easier time adopting a foster child.  This has led many to adopt children overseas.

This Interesting generational parallel made me reflect on the similarities between Elder Orphans and Foster Children and the connections that we should all be making with both.  One of my favorite examples that integrate both is the Hope Meadows Community This community integrates elders with families and foster children to create a intentional supportive neighborhood.

It’s been estimated that nearly 60% of nursing home residents don’t have anyone visiting them each year. There are programs in many regions around the country that visit residents of nursing homes who don’t have families.  We need more of these programs especially with a focus on helping develop meaningful relationships for the residents and not just “visiting” elders.

1 Comment

  • I wonder too if “elder orphanism” will be an even greater problem as the Baby Boom generation begins needing care. My sense is that this generation has made a value of independence, perhaps at the expense of community. (I realize this is a generalization, and I apologize.) It will also be interesting to see how today’s “Technology Generation” will age. They seem so used to being connected with each other! It’s a different kind of community than what we are used to, but it may be just as meaningful.

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