Orphan Boomers & Stubborn Parents?

Parents Stubborn? DRIVING ISSUES? Having That Hard Talk With Your Folks!


Why are There so Many Orphan Boomers?

shallow focus photo of man in green jacket

Orphan Boomers….Many people fall into the category of being Orphan Adults, Elder Orphans or Kinless. They may not be aware of the terms, the limitations, and pitfalls that those words represent, even though they apply to them. The terms refer to people aging alone and unsupported, with no known family member or designated surrogate to act on their behalf. As a result, they might find that there’s a conflict and potential disappointment over what they want done and what the law permits given their circumstances. 22% of people over age 65 are estimated to be, or are at risk to become, elder orphans. This represents nearly 15 million people. As the numbers of Baby Boomers age, this number will probably grow significantly.

The Growing Problem of Elder Orphans

This trend is expected to continue as the Baby Boomer generation continues to age, and it raises a number of important questions about how to best support this vulnerable population. Orphan boomers are typically people who were born between 1946 and 1964. Their ages range from 59 to 77. Many of them made the decision to not have children, and they may not have close friends or neighbors who can provide support. Still others may have been more occupied with a career or personal pursuit, lost a spouse or live too far away from children.

One factor is the declining birth rate in the United States, having fewer children than previous generations. This means that there are fewer potential caregivers available to support older adults. Also contributing is increased longevity and single-person households among older adults which has more than doubled since 1950.  

What are the Challenges Facing Orphan Boomers?

Finding affordable and accessible care. Difficulty finding affordable long-term care options and accessing transportation and other essential services.

Another challenge facing orphan boomers is social isolation. Older adults who live alone and without family support are more likely to be socially isolated. This can lead to a number of health problems, including depression, anxiety, and cognitive decline.

What Can Be Done to Help Orphan Boomers?

Perhaps the most important step is to raise awareness of the issue. Many older adults are not aware of the term “orphan boomer” or the challenges that they face. By raising awareness, we can help to ensure that older adults have access to the resources that they need to prepare for and avoid this pitfall. Providing access to affordable and accessible care, transportation, and other essential services. It also includes providing opportunities for social interaction and support.

Finally, it is important to advocate for policies that support orphan boomers.

Shared housing and co-housing, providing safety and assistance in numbers and within the community, could grow, especially with public and philanthropic support. The village movement, which helps seniors age in place, might similarly expand.

Are there indications or warning signs that later generations risk falling into this situation?

The birth rate has been declining for decades, and this trend is expected to continue in the coming years. This means that there will be fewer potential caregivers available to support older adults in the future.

The increasing number of single-person households among younger adults. Younger adults who live alone are more likely to be single and childless, which means that they may not have family support as they age.

Finally, the increasing cost of long-term care is another factor that may contribute to the number of elderly orphans in the future. Making it increasingly difficult for older adults to afford long-term care, even if they have family support.

Is the Issue of Orphan Boomers Isolated to the Baby Boomer Generation?

No, in fact, the number of older adults who are without family support is expected to grow across all generations.

Contributing factor to this trend is longevity of people. As people live longer, they are more likely to outlive their spouses, children, and other relatives. Another is the changing nature of family structures. More people are choosing to have fewer children, or to have children later in life. This means that they will have fewer relatives to rely on in their old age. Finally, the increasing cost of healthcare and other services makes it more difficult for older adults to maintain their independence.

The issue of orphan boomers is a complex one, and there is no easy solution. Providing financial assistance, transportation, healthcare, and social services is a given. It is also important to create a society that is more supportive of older adults, and that values their contributions to society.

Is the problem just a US problem?

No, it is a global problem that is affecting countries all over the world. In many countries, the traditional support networks of family and friends are breaking down. This is due to a number of factors, such as urbanization, industrialization, and changing social norms. As a result, more and more people are aging without any close family members to provide support.

Countries Most Affected by the Orphan Boomer Problem

The countries that are most likely to be affected by the orphan boomer problem are those with large Baby Boomer populations.

In the United States the number of orphan boomers is expected to reach 20 million by 2030. This is due to the fact that the Baby Boomer generation is getting older. They are living longer and more likely to experience widowhood, divorce, and childlessness. For similar reasons.

Canada, the number of orphan boomers is expected to reach 5 million by 2030.

Australia is expected to reach 3 million by 2030.

Japan, the expectation is to reach 15 million by 2030.

The orphan boomer problem is a global problem. It is important to raise awareness of the issue and to develop solutions that will help orphan boomers in all countries.

What Do Orphan Boomers Look Like?

Orphan boomers come from all walks of life. They are men and women, young and old, rich and poor. Some may be retired or still working, healthy or have disabilities. There is no one-size-fits-all profile of an orphan boomer. They don’t wear a sign and they look like everyone else.

However, there are some common characteristics that many orphan boomers share. They are often independent and self-sufficient. With a strong sense of self-reliance, they may be reluctant to ask for help. They may also be private people, and they may not want to share their personal struggles with others.

Orphan boomers may also have a unique set of challenges. They may have lost touch with their extended family, and they may not have any close friends. Also they may have difficulty accessing healthcare and other essential services.

Despite the challenges they face, orphan boomers are resilient people. Having learned to adapt to change, they are determined to live their lives to the fullest. They are a valuable asset to their communities, and they deserve our support.

Who Can Make Decisions for an Orphan Boomer

If an orphan boomer becomes incapacitated and does not have a health care proxy or advance health care directive in place, the decision-making process can become complicated. In most cases, the court will appoint a guardian to make decisions on the individual’s behalf. The guardian can be a family member, friend, or professional.

A court will consider a number of factors when appointing a guardian. These include the individual’s wishes, the guardian’s ability to make decisions in the individual’s best interests, and the guardian’s relationship to the individual.

It is important for orphan boomers to discuss their wishes for end-of-life care with their loved ones and legal advisors. This will help to ensure that their wishes are respected if they become incapacitated.

The Benefits of Having a Friend or Partner Living With or Looking In

Besides appointing a guardian, health care proxy, and financial power of attorney, orphan boomers may also benefit from having a friend. A partner who lives with them or who regularly checks in on them. This person can provide companionship, assistance with daily tasks, and help in making decisions.

There are many benefits to having a friend or partner living with or looking in.

  • Increased social interaction: Having someone to talk to and spend time with can help to reduce loneliness and isolation.
  • Improved physical health: Having someone to help with daily tasks can reduce the risk of falls and other injuries.
  • Better financial management: Having someone to help with finances can help to prevent financial problems.
  • More informed decision-making: Having someone to discuss decisions with can help to ensure that the orphan boomer is making the best possible decisions for themselves.

If you are an orphan boomer, it is important to consider having a friend or partner live with you or who regularly checks in on you. This can provide you with the support and assistance you need to live a healthy and independent life. Studies reveal that longevity is adversely affected by living alone.

Here are some specific ways to raise awareness of the issue of elder orphanhood among aging boomers:

Create and distribute educational materials about elder orphanhood.

Hold public awareness events.

Partner with organizations that serve aging boomers. These organizations can help to spread the word about elder orphanhood and connect aging boomers with the resources they need.

Use social media to raise awareness.


Preparing to Age In Place as an ‘Elder Orphan’ or ‘Solo Ager’ Companions for Seniors, September 11, 2019

Study: Understanding Older Adults that are Aging Alone Seniorcare.com ; Carol Marak

Who Will Care for ‘Kinless’ Seniors? New York Times; Paula Span; Dec. 3, 2022 Updated June 20, 2023

Health and Retirement Study. (Family Data) Public Use Dataset.  University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA; National Institute on Aging; 2010.

Beacon Hill Village, Boston, MA


A Person Giving a Bundle of Keys to another Person

Refusal? Denial?…. Ever try talking with your parents about issues of their age, their forgetfulness or best yet giving up driving? If so, you probably have seen both refusal and denial first hand.

“Yes, I have tried talking to my parents about aging, forgetfulness, and giving up driving. It can be a difficult conversation to have, and I have seen both refusal and denial first hand. As a matter of fact some of the “darndest” things my parents have said can’t be published here and some I’d never heard before.

My parents are both in their 80s, and they are starting to experience some of the physical and cognitive changes that come with aging. They have both forgotten things that they used to know, and they have both had some close calls while driving.

I have tried to talk to them about these changes, but they have both been reluctant to make any changes to their lifestyle. They don’t want to admit that they are getting older, and they don’t want to give up any of their independence.

I understand their reluctance, but I also worry about their safety and the safety of others. I’ve offered to help them find ways to stay safe and independent, but they have been resistant to my suggestions.

I’m not sure what else I can do to convince them to make some changes. I know that they need to make some adjustments to their lifestyle, but they are not ready to do so yet.

I’ll continue to talk to them about it, and I am going to keep offering my help. My hope is that eventually they will come to realize that they need to make some changes for their own safety and well-being.”

This is common sense. Why are they so resistant?

There are many reasons why parents may resist talking about their age, forgetfulness, or giving up driving.

  • Fear of losing independence. Driving is a symbol of independence for many people and giving it up can feel like a loss of control. Parents may be afraid that they will no longer be able to go where they want, when they want, or do the things they enjoy.
  • Pride. Some parents may be reluctant to admit that they are no longer as capable as they once were. They may feel like they are being judged or criticized, and they may want to protect their self-esteem. Remember, these people, our parents did monumental things in their lifetime. For them to admit that they are too old may seem to them, a chink in their armor. “Could assisted living be next?”
  • Shame or embarrassment. Some parents may be ashamed or embarrassed to admit that they are no longer able to drive safely. They may worry that their children will think less of them or that they will be seen as a burden.
  • Denial. Some parents may simply be in denial about their declining abilities. They may refuse to believe that they are no longer safe drivers, even when presented with evidence to the contrary.
  • Anger. Some parents may react with anger when their children suggest that they give up driving. They may feel like their children are trying to control them or take away their independence.

Planning and Preparation for “THE CONVERSATION”

Talking to your parents about their age, forgetfulness, or giving up driving:

  • Choose the right time and place. Don’t try to have this conversation when your parents are stressed or tired. Find a time when they are relaxed and have plenty of time to talk.
  • Start by expressing your love and concern. Let your parents know that you are worried about them and that you want them to be safe.
  • Be specific about your concerns. Don’t just say “you’re not safe to drive.” Instead, point out specific things that you have noticed, such as driving too slowly or making mistakes.
  • Offer alternatives. Don’t just tell your parents that they can’t drive anymore. Instead, offer to help them find alternative ways to get around, such as ride-sharing services or public transportation.
  • Patient and understanding and offer them your support. It may take time for your parents to come to terms with the fact that they need to make some changes.
  • Direct but gentle. Don’t get angry, threatening, or abusive.
  • Be prepared to count to ten, under your breath and often.
  • They my be expecting this conversation. They may remember too many close calls and the relief of getting home without incident

Who is the best person to address these issues with your parents?

The best person to address these issues with your parents depends on the specific situation. Nobody wants to be the bearer of bad news. If your parents are open to talking to you, then you may be the best person to have the conversation. However, if your parents are resistant or in denial, then it may be helpful to involve a trusted friend, family member, or healthcare professional.

The best person to address these issues with your parents will vary depending on the specific situation. In some cases, it may be helpful to talk to your parents alone. With other cases, it may be helpful to have a third party present, such as a doctor, social worker, or elder law attorney. Maybe their eye doctor.

Why aren’t doctors more involved in these discussions?

Doctors are often in a good position to discuss driving safety with their patients. They can assess the patient’s physical and cognitive abilities. Also they can provide information about the risks associated with driving at an advanced age. Doctors can also offer support and encouragement to patients who are considering giving up their driver’s license.

However, doctors are not always involved in these discussions. This may be because they are not trained in geriatrics or driving safety, or because they feel uncomfortable broaching the subject with their patients. It is important to remember that doctors are there to help their patients. Your having a conversation with their doctor, expressing your concern. Hopefully the doctor can open the door with some questions that brings the topic to the surface. They can be a valuable resource in discussing driving safety.

Are you a Power of Attorney POA for a Senior Who Drives?

This deserves a chat with an attorney. This is not legal advice.

Recently while attending a caregiver conference, the subject of who says “What” and “When” about concerns over a seniors driving ability was brought up.

Q. Would anyone holding a power of attorney potentially be liable for motor vehicle actions by a person who should not be permitted to drive?

A. Someone holding power of attorney for another person could potentially face liability related to allowing that person to drive unsafely, depending on the specific circumstances.

Here are some tips for someone with power of attorney (POA) to take prompt action in response to an unsafe driver and minimize liability risk:
As soon as impairment is detected, formally consult with the driver’s physicians to have driving privileges medically revoked if appropriate.
If physicians agree driving should cease, immediately disable or take possession of the driver’s car keys and vehicle. Inform the DMV of license revocation.
For mild impairment cases, require completing a driver’s safety course or installing vehicle restrictions (no night driving, limiting distance etc.) to avoid full cessation if possible.
Consult an attorney to understand your specific authority under the POA and options to prevent driving legally. Seek court approval if needed.
If the impaired driver owns their vehicle, consider selling it and arranging alternate transportation. If you own it, take it back.
Plan for alternative transportation – rides from others, taxis, senior transport, etc. This shows diligence in enabling mobility without driving.
Document steps taken to prevent driving and formal physician assessments declaring driver impairment. Showing concrete efforts to address the safety issues will help defend against liability if an incident still occurs.
If the impaired driver insists on continuing to drive unsafely, notify police immediately before an accident happens. Though difficult, this may be necessary to protect them and others.
Taking prompt, diligent, and reasonable steps as soon as impairment is detected is key. The POA should utilize all available resources to prevent unsafe driving proactively rather than waiting for an tragic incident.


Taking the Keys Away: What to Do If a Senior Won’t Stop Driving; Marlo Sollitto
Is It Time for Your Loved One to Retire From Driving? Stacey Colino, October 21, 2021

From FindLaw: “If the agent fails to stop the principal from driving, and the principal gets into an accident, the agent may face liability for the injuries and property damage resulting from the accident.” https://www.findlaw.com/estate/powers-of-attorney/agent-liability-under-a-power-of-attorney.html

From NOLO: “The elderly drivers’ agents have a duty to protect not only the driver, but also anyone else who could be harmed by the driver’s conduct. If an agent neglects this duty, he or she could be held legally liable.” https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/stop-elderly-parent-driving.html

From American Bar Association: “An agent with authority to make healthcare decisions is expected to consider the principal’s history and make decisions consistent with the principal’s preferences or best interests. This may include decisions regarding driving.” https://www.americanbar.org/groups/law_aging/resources/health_care_decision_making/liability-health-care-agents/

From Elder Law Answers: “The agent may even be liable for negligence if he or she fails to take the car keys away from an older driver who is no longer competent to drive safely.” https://www.elderlawanswers.com/elder-drivers-and-liability-12018