Elder Orphans: A Real Problem or a New Way to Scare Singles?

If you are single and have no kids, scare stories are made for you. Some are familiar: You are going to become a bag lady. You are going to grow old alone. You are going to die alone. Now, in case we single people have become too inured to these old threats or too uppity to fret about them, a new one is making the rounds: We are going to end up as “elder orphans,” with no one to care for us as we become old and frail and vulnerable.

There are some serious issues here, so I don’t want to be entirely dismissive. But I do want to put the concerns in perspective, so that single people and people with no children are not needlessly put on the defensive once again, while those who are married with children feel reassured that they are just fine. And I also want to push back on those judgmental headlines, such as the one from Consumer Affairs declaring, “Free-living Baby Boomers at risk of becoming ‘elderly orphans’,” which came with the smug tagline, “Wild and free is great when you’re young, not so great when you’re old.”

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