Ageing is a part of life – and most people imagine that they would be surrounded by those they love as they get older.

But some people – particularly those without partners and children – are faced with the reality of ageing alone.

These people are elder orphans.

Some are elder orphans by choice, having never had children a lifelong partner. While other are elder orphans by circumstance, being widowed, with family support is far away and or their social circle is dwindling.

Having children doesn’t prevent this – grown children may be preoccupied with jobs, children of their own to care for, or other demands of adult life. They may also live far away. Or they may be estranged.

No matter how they got there, they are all in the same place now. And they find themselves alone with no one to help care for them when they need it.

Social isolation is a serious risk for elder orphans. Whilst social isolation may lead to feelings of loneliness for some people, for others being socially isolated and having very few social connections may not have any impact on them at all.

Conversely, a person with a number of social interactions and connections can still experience loneliness.

Many people in aged care are elder orphans. Though a loved one may have place them in care, these residents find that they rarely have visitors.

However, to combat this there are visitor schemes to help lonely residents.

Community Visitors Schemes (CVS) are run by multiple organisations around the country, including the Red Cross and Lifeline, and are supported by the Federal Government.

The Importance of Being Prepared

People who are in the position of becoming as elder orphan – or are concerned they might have to face the ageing process alone can do a number of things to make the process easier.

  • See a doctor regularly – prevention is better than cure, and it’s always better to catch any ill health early. Exercise and eat healthy.
  • Have an advocate – this can be a distant relative, a close friend or even a neighbour – to support you should you even end up in hospital or need help.
  • Create your own community – many older people find themselves as elder orphans, so lean on each other. Have a share house, start a hobby together – having a small community to share your life with can be great for your mental and physical health.
  • Work to eliminate debt if possible – it can improve a person’s quality of life if they don’t have debt hanging over their heads

This advice isn’t simple for people who are alone, even people with children and spouses can utilise it to be prepared.

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