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Guest Commentary | Planning helps ‘elder orphans’ age in place

Planning helps ‘elder orphans’ age in place

By SCOTT MILLER - Founder and CEO of Florida Senior Consulting | Jan 12, 2024

Scott Miller

The word “orphan” conjures up images of a young, lonely child whose parents, for one reason or another, are no longer in the picture.

The term usually isn’t associated with seniors who live alone.

However, a staggering number of unmarried or widowed seniors live alone and lack a support system. In fact, a 2021 study by AARP reported that these “solo agers,” also known as “elder orphans,” make up 12% of the nation’s 50+ population. As baby boomers continue to age, the number of solo agers will increase proportionally.

Many of these elder orphans are opting to age in place, staying in their own homes or apartments rather than moving into a senior living community. It’s estimated that 90% of seniors want to age at home, and who could blame them? They worked tirelessly for decades to pay off their mortgage and settle into their dream home, surrounding themselves in comfort and stability. Where they choose to live isn’t just a physical space; it’s their home. It’s a place filled with a lifetime of memories, a piece of real estate where they feel independent and in control of their lives.

However, the concept of aging in place extends beyond the physical dwelling. Seniors opting to age in place need a detailed health care plan, which sometimes requires in-home care or modifications to the home. Seniors, even those living independently, should never be in a situation where they must create a health care and aging plan on their own. That is where senior advocacy organizations like Florida Senior Consulting, the largest privately held care management and placement firm in the state, come into the picture. The agency’s team of health care professionals have the resources to help seniors coordinate a health care plan that meets their unique needs as they age in place.

There are three points to consider when committing to aging in place:

• Be proactive

For individuals of any age, the best time to consider health care needs is before a crisis. Take the initiative to look back on family medical history and schedule baseline testing to determine what health care concerns might arise down the road. Do dementia, cancer, high blood pressure or heart conditions run in the family? Consider these possibilities and devise a plan for the future.

• Ask for help

Seniors determined to age in place should tap experts to help build a roadmap that includes future options for in-home care service organizations, and perhaps in a few years, a senior living community or assisted living center. Asking for help to develop contingency plans creates peace of mind while seniors are still living at home while ensuring access to high-quality resources and genuine care from highly trained medical professionals when the time comes.

• Create a path to longevity

Socialization is a key to living a long, fulfilling life. While aging in place as an elder orphan, join social groups and sign up for activities to remain vibrant and active in the community. Not sure where to start? Consider an organization like Senior Friendship Centers, which has seven locations in Lee County where seniors can expand their social network, volunteer and participate in daily activities.

With the right resources, partners and a plan of action, solo agers can confidently and successfully navigate the senior living journey.

Scott Miller is the founder and CEO of Florida Senior Consulting. He is a board-certified Healthcare Services Administrator and certified Dementia Practitioner who partners with seniors and their families to help navigate the next stage of life while getting the best care possible.