If you’re an older and independent adult, you may be wondering what programs or organizations offer help for seniors without a family.
Growing older by yourself can be a challenge but also deeply rewarding. There are many organizations, people, and programs that offer help for seniors without a family, allowing them to live a full, independent life.
In this article, we’ll discuss the solo senior or orphan elder demographic, what challenges they face, programs that can offer assistance, and how to find help for seniors without a family.
Who are solo seniors or elder orphans?
Older folks without a family are also known as solo seniors or elder orphans.
These people have no spouse or significant other and no adult children that are nearby to help care for them. As a result, they must be able to take care of themselves as they age, which can present some challenges for health, safety, and well-being.
It’s becoming more common in the United States for seniors to live alone, according to reports from the PEW Research Center. In the United States, about 27 percent of adults ages 60 and older live alone as compared with 16 percent of adults in the 130 countries and territories PEW studied.
Older people in the U.S. also tend to have a smaller household size as they age. The average American person who is 60 or older lives with about one other person, resulting in a household size of 2.1 people as compared with a worldwide average of 3.4 people. Women also seem to be more likely to be solo seniors, as the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) expects that roughly 16 percent of women will be between 80 and 84 years old and childless by 2030.
Seniors without a family support system face many challenges.
As we mentioned above, solo seniors often face more challenges as they age by themselves.
Studies have found that solo seniors are more likely to find it difficult to accomplish daily tasks and are at an increased risk of cognitive decline, cardiovascular diseases, and early death. Thus, many doctors or therapists may recommend that solo seniors find a community, close friend, or even a new spouse with which to share their life.
Regardless, if you’re set on living alone, here are a few of the challenges you may face.
The National Council on Aging reports that about 40 percent of U.S. seniors age 60 and older earn less than $30,000 per year, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. About 46 percent of seniors are not confident that their income will be enough to cover their monthly expenses in the next five to 10 years. Without a spouse or family, those financial challenges can be bigger for solo seniors.
Your cognitive health — the ability to think, learn, and remember — is an important component of life.
And it may come as no surprise that older people are at greater risk of cognitive decline, including such ailments as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Talk to your doctor about cognitive decline and how you might be able to prevent it with regular exercise, a better diet, and other behavioral changes.
As you age, it becomes harder to move around, pick up things, travel, and generally navigate life. If you’re living alone, it’s important to make your home as senior-friendly a space as possible.
You can make your home elderly-friendly by installing grab bars in locations in bathrooms, along stairs, or outside. You might also consider moving kitchen, garage, or other daily items to reachable locations so you don’t need to strain or grab a step stool. Installing ramps may also help you enter and exit the home more easily. Eliminate rugs and other tripping hazards. You might also consider buying a medical alert system that would allow you to notify professionals if you fall or have another critical medical issue.
Solo seniors may be at a greater risk of depression, anxiety, and other mental health ailments. Without a person to talk with, many solo seniors bottle up their emotions or have no outlet in which to express themselves. Make sure you have a community, or friends with which you can share life experiences.
Unfortunately, living alone and without a family makes solo seniors more prone to elder abuse, including physical, emotional, and financial abuse. Without family members, a spouse, or others to turn to, elder abusers may take advantage of someone that is alone and without a support network.
Help for Seniors without a Family
Fortunately, there are many organizations, people, and programs that can offer help for seniors without a family. Let’s take a look at a few of the steps you can take and programs you can seek out if you’re a solo senior.
Stay connected to your community.
One of the most important things you can do as you’re getting older as a solo senior is to stay connected to your community.
Get involved in volunteerism, take community courses, and enjoy congregate meals at your local senior center. Building a supportive community network can help reduce the sense of loneliness that many people experience as they age.
Check out Facebook or other social media for options on senior groups, or contact your local Area Agency on Aging. Senior centers in your area will be a great resource to build a support network. Not only will they offer you social opportunities but also the ability to learn about programs that can help you live an independent life.
Look for a senior companionship program.
Senior companion programs also help reduce loneliness and improve health outcomes. There are many local and nationwide organizations that offer companionship programs for seniors without a family. You should contact your local senior center for a referral. You can also reach out to organizations like the Americorps.
Become a foster grandparent.
Foster grandparents help mentor and influence youth in their communities. These programs invite seniors (ages 55+) to help care for premature infants or children with disabilities, mentor troubled teenagers and young mothers, and engage with other children. This is a great way to relieve loneliness while making a huge impact in other people’s lives.
Set up check-ins.
You may also set up automatic daily call-ins that can be arranged through your area’s police department or department of aging.
With most programs, you’ll provide medical information and contact info to your doctor or remote family members. You might also be able to create a secure lock-box in which you can place a key so a first responder can enter your home in case of an emergency. You can also set up daily drop-in visits. Check out the Aging Life Care Association for more information.
Get housekeeping and caregiving assistance.
Your local Area Agency on Aging may be able to help you coordinate light housekeeping and caregiving assistance. Contact them for more information and/or a referral to other agencies that can help.
Find assisted living or retirement communities.
A retirement community will offer solo seniors a range of services in which they can remain independent but still find the help they need. These communities can adapt to what a solo senior needs and enable them to transition from independence to more dedicated care.
If you need more dedicated care, you might consider an assisted living facility. These facilities will have professionals on hand to help with in-home support services. You might also consider looking for senior co-housing facilities. These communities typically share a facility and a common belief of remaining independent with a support network.
Get housing assistance.
Your area’s senior center may be able to help with your housing.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development offers a variety of programs that can help low-income seniors, including reverse mortgages for seniors, various housing programs, housing counseling, and rental assistance. Check out this page from HUD on what services it offers to low-income seniors to see if any of their programs might be applicable to your situation.
Get help with food.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) may help provide you with food resources.
SNAP helps people age 60 and older by providing them nutrition benefits to supplement their food budget so they can purchase healthy food. Your household must meet certain income requirements to be eligible for SNAP, which you can see here.
Meals on Wheels can also help bring meals directly to you. These meals help alleviate the need to cook, which can save you money and improve your nutrition. This program also helps prevent injuries in the kitchen, which is something that unfortunately affects many seniors as they age.
Just because you’re an older, independent adult doesn’t mean you can’t find help for seniors without a family.
We hope through this article, you’ve learned more about the solo senior demographic, what challenges they face, and how to find help for seniors without a family.