After a lifetime of toil and challenges, most people long for the age of retirement, and are justifiably proud when they get there. It’s a time to reflect on one’s life and achievements, a time to free oneself and start over; maybe do that long-awaited road trip, start a garden, or move to the beach. All this with the knowledge that once time and age overtake, they will be able to enjoy their remaining golden years in safety and security, relying on the ultimate safety net: family.

Unfortunately, this idyllic picture of a care-free old age is one from which almost a quarter of elderly Americans is excluded. Whether divorced, childless, estranged, or with children living far away, a portion of elderly Americans enter retirement age with a great deal of apprehension and uncertainty.

We tend to take for granted the idea that we can take care of ourselves, even at an advanced age. We make plans and invest with an eye of making our old age as comfortable as possible, expecting that life will run on a predetermined path and according to expectations.

The sad truth is that life has a pattern all of its own, with change being the only constant. The condo we bought by the beach becomes superfluous when we find ourselves unable to climb the stairs. Also, our financial stability can be shaken when we lose the ability to manage our affairs.

Even things like our mental and financial acumen are affected by old age, making us prey to the vagaries of an ever-changing world.

All these factors make having a support system one of the most underestimated factors for providing good quality of life for older people. Having someone you can trust to help you navigate the complex decisions and situations that may arise at a time when you’re less able to cope helps you slow down, concentrate on making the most of your retirement, and avoid social isolation.

Many elder Americans lack this option. They’ve been dubbed orphan elderly. They’re a particularly vulnerable segment of our population.

Making it on Your Own

Many elder orphans find themselves overwhelmed, struggling on their own trying to manage spiraling health and financial concerns, without the help of a trusted loved one. This leaves them prey to a complex situation that is, at times, beyond their comprehension. It can open the way to such dramas as loss of income and insufficient healthcare coverage at a time where they’re at their most vulnerable.

However, some older orphans are able to successfully navigate the perils of old age, without the aid of family and kids. What’s the secret?

What makes some older orphans navigate old age on their own successfully comes down to two main factors: acceptance and planning.

Acceptance: We must accept that, with old age, our ability to deal with sudden changes will diminish, our health will eventually deteriorate, and we will need help in the future.This realization tends to be both difficult and painful, which is why many older orphans shy away from the subject until it becomes a reality. By this time, however, it’s often too late to address it.The ability to look towards the future with a clear and honest self-assessment is the first step towards formulating a working plan at a time where we are still able to do something constructive about it.

Planning: After accepting future needs and probable limitations, the next phase is gathering information and formulating a plan, followed by implementation.

  • Social networking: prescient elderly people tend to compensate for a lack of family support by creating new support groups that can intervene when the time comes. They grow their social network, creating an alternative support structure, adding friends, neighbors, and community.
  • Thinking outside the box: older orphans can be ingenious and tech savvy, finding ways to remain independent during old age.
  • Technology: Social media and apps lend a helping hand. Apps such as ‘EyeOn’ can signal up to three friends in case its user doesn’t respond to a phone scheduled alert within half an hour. There are Facebook groups for orphaned elderly people, helping them share experiences and break down an individual’s isolation.
  • Information gathering: Another important action orphan elderly Americans perform, especially in the beginning, is to contact an elder law attorney to get to grips with their financial situation and create future protections for themselves in case of physical or mental invalidity. They address any legal issue future events may bring.

Another more popular option is contacting a geriatric care management organization. They bring together a select team of specialists in care management, including legal and financial experts. They can guide customers to all available options within their budget. They also have an extensive network of contacts with care institutions that is essential when formulating a long-term care plan.

  • Investment: Some elder orphans start investing for their senior care early on by examining desirable neighborhoods in which to buy property. They search for places that offer a wide range of basic amenities they may need at a later time, such as nearby clinics, a shopping mall, and transport.

They favor investing in elderly-friendly properties, avoiding costly renovation costs later.

  • Insurance: older orphans also favor a robust Medicare policy and opt for heftier protections. They know in advance that the costs of opting for a Medicare plan later on may entail crippling financial consequences.

Making Plans Now

What all successful older orphans have in common is the idea of planning for the future, taking into account all possible eventualities without shying away from the truth, and implementing their plans in the present while they’re still independent and functional.

The options are myriad. It can take a great deal of thought and ingenuity from elderly orphans to tailor an appropriate plan that suits them. That being said, with the increase in the number of elderly orphans, most experts are seeing a definite shift in the market to accommodate the needs of this new demographic, offering better, more affordable care in the future. The nuclear family has changed drastically over the years, and as people get older, more and more services need to change with it. We are starting to see this now, and the elderly no longer have to rely on family to get by.  If you live in California and would like further information don’t hesitate to contact experienced senior care managers, they will be happy to provide information and help you find solutions for your future and the lives of your loved ones.