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by Carol Marak
“Over 30 years ago, researchers and geriatricians identified an ‘elder orphan’ (sometimes called a ‘solo ager’) as a person aging alone with little support. But when my Elder Orphan Facebook group targeting this population launched over 2 1/2 years ago, little was known about them. Even then, few realized that the hardships faced by older people with no nearby family members could be any different from those of others aging at home.
“Health care professionals and companies tend to lump the older population into four segments: ages 55 to 64, 65 to 74, 75 to 84, and 85 and older. It’s assumed that people in these age brackets deal with, or eventually could deal with, similar concerns relating to health, housing, transportation, caregiving and safety. But those concerns are further magnified for those who do not have a support system, and that number may be higher than you imagine. For example, in Dallas, where I live, 30 percent of people 65 and older live alone.
“Thankfully, through the dedicated service of social workers, gerontologists and geriatricians, the unique challenges of the solo ager have been identified.”