Aging In Place As An Elder Orphan Or Solo Ager

Aging Happens. But what happens when a person does not have family or friends close by or able to help them in times when they need more support? Let’s take a look at what an elder orphan or solo ager can do while they are able, to prepare for a future where they can continue to live independently for as long as possible.

What is the Difference Between a Solo Ager and an Elder Orphan?

Solo agers are adults making decisions about their future independently. They live alone because they do not have any children, were never married or are widowed, or their family members live too far away to assume any caregiver duties.

On the other hand, an elder orphan is also an aging individual making decisions for their future without any input from other people. However, elder orphans are physically and/or socially isolated from the community. They are estranged from or do not have any known family members or caregivers to assist them with their needs. These individuals could have been caregivers for family members or loved ones. However, they did not make a plan for themselves. Statistics from CNN state that 22% of Americans over the age of 65 are at risk of becoming elder orphans. As Baby Boomers age, this number is expected to increase.

The Benefits of Living as an Elder Orphan or Solo Ager

For many seniors, living alone allows them to live life on their own terms. Some surveys report that one-half of older adults living this way are generally happy and satisfied with their lives and quality of living. Many stating they prefer a quiet home and the ability to socialize when they want to do so instead of having it forced upon them. They’re also happy making decisions for themselves without the need to consider the impact those decisions may have on others.

What Are The Risks of Living as an Elder Orphan or Solo Ager?

One of the greatest risks to someone living as an elder orphan or solo ager is there is a lack of a reliable support system. Should an emergency or health crisis arise, there is no one to call on to get help quickly. The lack of a support system can negatively impact an aging person’s well-being overall. Some of the disadvantages and risks that face those aging alone include:

  • They are more likely to be isolated, feel lonely, even left out, which increases the risk of depression and other mental disorders and could negatively impact physical health
  • There is no one to monitor health conditions or notice changes in the person that may indicate there is a health issue or if it appears they are showing signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s
  • There is a lack of help with financial decisions, which could lead to their falling victim to senior scams and other forms of financial abuse by strangers
  • They have a lack of access to reliable transportation to doctor’s appointments, grocery stores, or ability to run other errands
  • They are at an increased risk of being the victim of other types of abuse elders suffer because no one is watching out for them
  • If the person begins to have difficulty bathing or performing other ADLs (Activities of Daily Living), poor hygiene can create health issues

How Can People Prepare For The Future As Solo Agers Or Elder Orphans?

If you are a Solo Ager or Elder Orphan, there are three issues you should consider when planning for your future:


Where are you going to live? How long can you live alone safely?

Most people prefer to live in their own homes or “age in place.” They do not like the idea of entering a nursing home or assisted living facility. As they get older, however, their home can become an unsafe place if no one checking in on them regularly. Planning is key.

First, ensure your home senior friendly. Relatively inexpensive accommodations to consider include:

  • Installing ramps if you have stairs to make getting in and out of your home easier
  • Installing grab bars in the bathroom
  • Purchasing a cane or walker to steady yourself as you move about the house to reduce the risk of falls
  • Installing rails on your bed to prevent falling out of bed
  • Purchasing a medical alert system or other emergency alert system to notify emergency responders if you fall or have another crisis. An emergency alert system is an essential item for a senior living alone
  • Securing rugs so they do not slide or slip
  • Removing tripping hazards throughout the house
  • Purchasing an extended “grabber” to help reach high items or pick up things from the floor
  • Moving items to more reachable levels
  • Installing a phone that is easy to use and put a list of numbers beside the phone
  • Automating regular monthly payments to help ensure they are paid each month on time
  • Purchasing a medical alert system or other emergency alert system to notify emergency responders if you fall or have another crisis. An emergency alert system is an essential item for a senior living alone

Think about what your needs would be in the event that you need assistance, from pet care and homecare to bills. Gather information about available options to compare costs and services now, before you need them. A solo ager or elder orphan must have at least one or two plans for what they will do if they suddenly cannot continue to live independently.

Continuing care retirement communities often provide several levels of care and support. If you do not foresee the ability to create a support system, you might want to consider a retirement community now. Unfortunately, these communities can be quite expensive, and therefore unaffordable for many aging seniors.

Livindi is an affordable solution that offers many features that can help those aging in place alone continue to do so, safely. Concierge services and an alert button can connect you to emergency help quickly and enables you to easily arrange for the goods and services you need for daily living. Sensors placed in areas in the home can detect when you might have fallen and send notifications to a concierge or medical team to get help. Livindi can even be set up so someone can check in with you regularly.

What Happens When People Don’t Have A Plan In Place?

Although it is difficult to consider what happens if you cannot make medical decisions for yourself, the consequences of not planning is worse.

Should you become incompetent because of a physical or mental condition, the court may appoint someone to make decisions for you. Because there is no plan and execute documents appointing an agent, you do not have a choice of whom the court appoints. States have different probate laws and family laws. However, most states provide a legal means of appointing a conservator and/or a guardian.

A conservator typically manages a person’s finances. The conservator would decide how much money to spend on various items and how to manage your finances. A guardian makes physical decisions for you, including where you live, extracurricular activities, and medical decisions.

Ideally, you want to create documents appointing an agent you choose to make these decisions. By doing so, you have control over many of the decisions made for you. You choose an agent and discuss what you desire to happen in various situations.

Documents everyone needs include:

  • A Last Will and Testament
  • General Durable Power of Attorney (appoints an agent to make financial decisions and physical decisions)
  • Advance Health Care Directive or Health Care Power of attorney, some states call these documents Living Wills (appoints a person to make medical decisions and end-of-life care
  • DNR Order – Do Not Resuscitate instructions

Creating these documents forces you to assess your current situation and support system. It also forces you to make decisions about your future needs and desires.

It's Not Too Late To Create a Support System  

Aging independently does not mean that you need to be alone. On the contrary, creating a personal network of friends and key individuals that will help you if you need help ensures that you can live independently for as long as possible. It also improves your overall mental and emotional health, which is a significant factor in how we age.

Some ideas to help you create a support system include, but are not limited to:                                                                                          

Hiring A Healthcare Advocate 

This person would assist you with health care, including going to doctor’s appointments, ensuring you take your medications, and serving as your agent to make medical decisions if you cannot do so for yourself. In addition, the health care advocate ensures that you understand everything discussed during the appointment and write down important information, such as treatment options, new diagnoses, and medication changes.

Social Services In Your Community

Ask about services, groups, and assistance for aging adults. Information can usually be found on your town’s website or call the local Council On Aging or Town Hall.

Church Or Other Religious Groups

Check with the churches/synagogue, etc. to determine if they have senior groups meeting weekly or monthly. Many groups have guest speakers that address issues that you face as an aging adult.

Online Groups

Utilize online resources, such as Facebook groups for Solo Agers and Elder Orphans. Other people in your situation can provide support and tips for handling various issues. Local groups share information about affordable housing, transportation, assistance for the elderly members of the community, etc.

Just be careful not to give your exact address, financial information, or personal information to anyone online. Unfortunately, scam artists can join these groups to take advantage of seniors.

Call-Ins and Check-Ins

As you make friends in the community, set up automatic daily call-ins with several friends, so someone checks in with you each day. The local police department and other agencies may have a system for daily checks. Each caller should have your emergency contact information.

You might want to consider physical check-ins throughout the week. Some seniors use lock boxes to keep a house key outside for emergencies. By offering to reciprocate check-ins, you remain active as well.

Consider Therapy and Counseling

A senior living alone might not realize something bad is happening to them until it’s late in the game, making it difficult to recover, physically, mentally or financially. Therapy sessions can help you work through negative thoughts and challenging times. The Livindi tablet can be used for virtual sessions with a licensed therapist, offering a consistent social connection and wellbeing checks with a professional. Virtual appointments are HIPPA compliant, covered by Medicare and you don’t need to arrange transportation when sessions can be one from your home.

Hire Individuals to Help at Home

Aging seniors might find it difficult to perform household chores or need assistance with ADLs. There are a variety of services seniors can hire to help with cleaning, laundry, and cooking.

Care With Remote Monitoring Sensors And Services

Technology can be a lifeline for a solo ager or elder orphan. You can purchase monitoring systems and hire companies to check on you and your home. There are electronic devices that remind you to take your medication each day. Some devices sort and store medications, so all you need to do is open the compartment and take the medication.

Emergency alerts have evolved beyond a necklace that alerts someone when you fall. You can purchase devices like Livindi that offer medication reminders and send alerts to your medical team and/or our concierge to get you help for all types of situations. You can use technology for doctor’s visits, therapy sessions, and easily start a video call to visit with those who may live far away.

For more information Livindi services, call us, we’d love to help (508) 416-6030.