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Seniors aging at home have high hopes that academic research will continue and make big changes for their needs and desires. Most important issues include better clinical assessments for health risks, coordination of care, affordable housing options, ways to socially connect, find support and get rides to medical appointments.

In the recent 93 question survey based on life-course theories, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Texas at Arlington discovered eye-opening preliminary data when studying the elder orphan Facebook group. Through collaborative efforts with 500 members, the inquiry will encourage dialogue with the healthcare sector, home, and community-based service organizations, and technology companies to become aware of this vulnerable population.

In another academic study, The Elder Orphan in Healthcare Settings: an Integrative Review, headed by Jed Montayre, Ph.D., School of Clinical Sciences, Auckland University of Technology, found older adults that live longer experience complexities related to physical disabilities and lack of social support, compounded by circumstances such as deceased spouse, divorced status, childlessness and distant family members/relatives or having no family at all.

The study points to the American Geriatric Society’s stance toward the medical treatment decisions of the unbefriended older population. The unbefriended lack the ability to make clinical or medical decisions for themselves due to reasons like impaired cognitive capacity and lack the advance directives or legal surrogates who will execute decisions for them.

According to the elder orphan Facebook group survey, 45 percent have not gotten around to writing instructions for their healthcare preferences or have selected a legal surrogate. Not doing so will put them at high-risk for becoming unbefriended.

There is limited research attention given to seniors aging at home with little to no support. And we hope that will change because solo aging is an under-developed topic within gerontology and health disciplines. A conceptual and theoretical explanation is necessary to progress future research around the topic.

Some of the preliminary findings in the recent research by Parekh was surprising. For example:

-53 percent have limits with activities due to mental, physical, or emotional issues.

-23 percent perform no moderate activities at all that causes small increases in breathing or heart rate for at least 30 minutes.

-54 percent have no one to help make medical decisions.

However, I took a poll in the group asking, “For the more self-sufficient members, what types of desires do you have and would like to see addressed?”

The results were:

-Create local support groups

-Affordable housing solutions

-Organizations for pet placements

-Transportation to medical appointments

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By Carol Marak

Aging Matters

Carol Marak, aging advocate, She’s earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from UC Davis, School of Gerontology.

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