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Family 411: Elder orphans

Number of Baby Boomers without family members nearby is growing (WSYX)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WKRC) - More baby boomers are living the golden years alone. They're typically considered "elder orphans", people who no longer have immediate family or spouses to rely on.

Sometimes the family you choose isn't the family you're given or may be no longer in your life. "My mom lived with me the last 7 years of her life."

Barbara Frautschi worried about becoming an elder orphan. "I don't have any immediate family I have some second cousins they'll send me Christmas cards."

Joel Wrobbel says more Americans are growing into their retirement years with ten thousand Baby Boomers turning 65 each day. "The baby boomers are coming along, it's the silver tsunami."

They may be entering their golden years, widows, divorced or estranged. "Because we're so transient, they're thinking I'm going to grow older into my retirement years and my kids are going to be right there and all of a sudden a new job, a new opportunity comes along and their kids move away from the area."

The thought of being alone saddened Barbara at first. Her dad died in the 80's. Her mom passed away in 1991. "That's when I was concerned about what would happen when she died and when I retired."

A common theme for those struggling to find their way without family close by. "Many times people can become depressed about it but I think more than that they're trying to figure out why what's going to be next for them."

Barbara moved into a retirement community nearly two decades ago. "I would say if you don't have a support group or individuals you could call on you need to develop one so that you don't feel that you're alone."

Elder orphans may be living in your neighborhood. Joel encourages people to develop relationships with simple gestures to stave off loneliness. "It could be as simple as making sure they know who you are and that you're available. Offering them the opportunity to provide a meal or have them come over for a meal from time to time."

Barbara relies on her faith and her family that walk the same hallways. "You make it what you want."

Wrobbel says the issue of elder orphans will continue to grow in the future as one-third of all adults ages 45 to 65 are already living by themselves.

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