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Elder Orphans: Finding a Family in Old Age

By June 30, 2015Aging in Place

As people age, they begin to lose people in their lives. Children move away, parents pass away, and spouses may be gone due to divorce or death. This leaves the elder an “orphan.” With no children, parents or spouses to tend to, the elder finds him or herself alone.

These elder orphans can be vulnerable and lonely, sometimes succumbing to depression and even increasing the risk of death. The answer to that loneliness may be in finding new people to connect with – a “chosen” family. Elders can get as much joy, comfort, and friendship from a chosen family as they did from their relatives.

Establishing new relationships is critical for the elder orphan. They can’t change the past and they may have little control over how much time relatives spend with them. Developing new friendships is vital and one place to look is to the immediate caregiver.

Caregivers of seniors have a integral part of the elder’s life. Attending to daily issues including medical and personal care may be a big part of the job, but companionship is just as valuable. The caregiver is privy to the most intimate concerns and establishing a true friendship can increase the elder’s sense of trust.

Studies have shown that most people are happier and healthier when they have relationships with others but elders may have difficulty finding and making new friends. The caregiver should be the first person that they can turn to. This means the caregiver must be willing to be a friend.

This can be difficult and stressful and caregivers can relieve part of the burden by encouraging other activities as well, such as:

  • Interaction at a senior center
  • Art and craft classes
  • Visits to the park
  • Reading time at the library
  • Taking care of animals at home, a shelter – or even participating in a pet-therapy program
  • Getting to know the neighbors
  • Attending church activities
  • While the senior may be resistant, a little encouragement may be all that is needed. The elder may need a little “push” but with some positivity and enthusiasm, the caregiver may be able to “care” for the senior better by giving him something to “care” about.
    Growing older can be a scary proposition but doing so with friends can make it easier and more fun.

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