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Baby Boomers and the Elder Orphans That They Become

Baby Boomers and the Elder Orphans That They Become

The Aging Population

The population of America is aging.  We’re getting older.  That may seem self-evident but the problem is, it’s not just us.  Rather, the proportion of older people within our society is increasing and the ratio of young to old is shrinking.  In 2012, there were 43 million people aged 65 or over in the US, compared to just 35 million only ten years earlier, in 2002[1].  It is estimated that by 2029, 20% of the US population will be 65 years old or over, and that by 2056, the population of over-65s will bigger than that of the population of under 18s[2].  This, in part, is due to the so-called baby boom generation – those born in the fertile post-war years between 1946 and 1964.  The oldest of this group turned 65 back in 2011 and the youngest will probably need health care right through to 2060.  Many chose to remain child-free, which in itself isn’t a problem, but as the population continues to age, so difficulties begin to show. 

The Baby-Boomers and What They Become

The baby-boomers are now facing a new, and perhaps less spritely name: the elder orphans.  The term, coined recently, refers to older people who need care yet have no relatives either at all or living nearby.  Dr. Maria Torroella Carny, the chief of geriatric and palliative medicine at North Shore Health System, released a paper last week discussing just that issue.  These elderly people, who are often divorced or widowed and have no children, have no support system and are effectively ‘orphaned’ during a particularly vulnerable time in their lives.  She uses case studies to demonstrate just how serious this can be and how devastating the potential consequences are[3]