“Elder Orphan?” Who? Me?

I  tuned in to National Public Radio while driving to the supermarket yesterday and heard Carol Marak, spokesperson and advocate for Aging, Alone, discussing “Elder Orphans.”

“What’s that?” I thought. Having been orphaned myself at an early age, I paid attention.

But this wasn’t about growing up without parents. Marak, who is single with no children, was explaining she had taken care of her parents through their old age and illness until death. Then she realized that when it’s her turn to go through that, there won’t be any one to give her that loving care.

She emphasized that she, and many people she interviewed, did not regret being childless, but did have the same qualms. So she decided to find a solution.

Her answer was to create an online community for adults aging alone–that anyone can join by Googling: Elder Orphans Facebook Group.

There are fascinating, active chat lines, with problems and answers such as the following dialog:

Comment: “Just recently, I moved from suburbia into a highly urban area, where there is a metro, you know, transportation, buses, public transit. I’m also very healthy fortunately, but I do walk. I run my errands via foot, so I kind of kill two birds with one stone there, stay fit and run errands. And I live in a high-rise, because I want to surround myself with other people. I don’t want to live in a home, isolated. So, we have to think about those things, how we plan for aging alone.”

A.” I would suggest, first off, just reaching out to the local area agencies on aging. Then, I would also reach out to senior centers. Just go where seniors hang out.”

When asked how to stay in the family home after every else is gone, and it feels lonely as wells being difficult financially, Marak pointed out some solutions, such as renting a room to another Elder Orphan, or possibly turning it into a “group home.”

Marak also put forth the unique concept of adopting a family.

She noted, “Well, I mean, think about it. How many families are maybe without an older individual, or maybe they’ve lost their parents or they’ve lost their grandmother? Of course, it requires a lot of forethought, and even some help with legal matters, but I think it’s an option.”

In return for becoming part of a family, she added, the Elder Orphan can consider legally naming the family members heirs to whatever estate he or she leaves.

Other issues considered on the site include ways to stay fit and eat healthy foods, things too many people living alone stop doing. Discussions also include ways to reach out to the community by giving volunteer help to others.

On that Facebook Group page, people mostly share what they are feeling each day.

“We discuss transportation options, emotional things that might be affecting us, how are we feeling about not having children — although most of us are grateful to not have children, because we have members who have been really estranged from their families, which is hard,” Marak added.

“So, it’s just a great place to come and feel accepted, and find friendship and connection. What’s so wonderful is that when you start a discussion, you’re always going to have someone participate. And you can also pull it offline if you wish, and private message someone, and then take it from there. Many of us are breaking off and starting our own face-to-face groups, which is really, I think, the next step for all of us.”

And that’s when I arrived at the market, and went in to buy a small quart of milk instead of the less expensive half gallon I can’t finish–because I live alone!