Elder Orphans

By Doug Mayberry

July 29, 2019 4 min read

Q: I was once married to a lovely woman. Unfortunately, we found over time that we just weren't compatible in the long term: We had different priorities, values and visions of the future. We ended up divorcing but still were a part of each other's lives.

My ex-wife passed away this year after a long battle with cancer, and it's hitting me now that I've lost the last major bond in my life.

My parents passed on a long time ago. I don't have any close relations; I never married again and don't have any children. I'm going to be all alone in my old age. My health has been decent so far, but I know that won't last forever.

Am I destined to age alone?

A: No. Focus on cultivating bonds with the people around you.

Elder orphans — seniors without a spouse or children in their lives to support them — are increasingly common, and their experiences are now in the public eye.

Many elder orphans feel like they live without a safety net, lacking the physical, emotional and practical help that close family members often provide. However, many people like you are finding other types of bonds to be just as important.

Adult children have traditionally been tasked with being caregivers, but more and more couples have chosen not to have children. This leaves seniors to deal with keeping track of their medical, legal and financial affairs alone. Many assisted living facilities provide for residents' health needs, but they come with a hefty price tag.

Forming new relationships will give you a wider net of resources and support.

Although familial bonds are idealized as being the more stable and long-lived bonds in people's lives, many families have found themselves outside of this paradigm. Whether it's due to tragedy or personal dysfunction, family bonds are just as vulnerable to the passage of time.

Those who believe they'll end up alone usually prove themselves right, in a self-fulfilling prophecy. One of the biggest issues for seniors is loneliness, especially that imposed by self-isolation.

It's never too late to seek others out. — Emma, Doug's granddaughter

KEEPING TRACK

Q: I am delighted to have five grandchildren, and I spend roughly a third of my conversations bragging about them — as my neighbors could tell you!

My only problem is that I'm finding it harder to keep track of all the birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and other dates. My youngest granddaughter turned 15 at the beginning of last week, and I only put a card in the mail after being reminded.

How can I remember all these dates?

A: Keep a centralized system and stick to it.

Pick an information storage system, like a calendar, journal or phone notification. Then move all your important data — dates, phone numbers, addresses, etc. — into it. Organize this information so that you can find it later.

Having good systems in place is an essential part of coping with aging. The earlier you set up these systems, the more likely they are to work.

Whenever you get updated information, put it in the same place. Consistency is key.

It never hurts to have a backup! Email and phones can store an annual alert for important days. Technology has a better memory than you. — Doug

Doug Mayberry makes the most of life in a Southern California retirement community. Contact him at [email protected] Emma, Doug's granddaughter, helps write this column. To find out more about Doug Mayberry and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: pasja1000 at Pixabay

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