IDEAS: ‘Elder orphans’ need and deserve help

Credit: Shutterstock

Credit: Shutterstock

Some of my best friends grew up without electricity and walked to church in their bare feet with their shoes in hand.

They bartered for groceries with chickens and eggs at the general store and picked up the receiver of a party line phone to ask the operator to connect them to a neighbor.

This hardy generation lived without things some of us consider to be necessities and have life experiences that just can’t be made up. Unlike what some may believe, the older adult can be hilarious, adventurous, wild, open minded, and reasonable.

People of all generations are more alike than different.

These seasoned people have endured alcoholic fathers and unemployment. They have buried their own children and faced health scares. They have done things they regret and paid the consequences. But they have also skinny dipped in the pond and embraced a loved one home from war.

They have felt considerable joy and jumped rope with their kids instead of doing the dishes.

This resilient population longs to remain independent­.

However, we know that we’ll all need assistance as we age. Our eyes will prevent us from detecting a stain on our shirt. Our ears may not hear the grandchildren sing. Our memory will not have room for dates and details. Our legs may not be able to hold us steady on a ladder or help us to safely rise from a position on the ground. Even though we’d like to believe our body’s abilities will not leave us, more than likely they will, and we will need help.

According to AARP, 20% of Americans over the age of 65 are at risk for becoming elder orphans—a person aging alone without family to provide care.

We assume most Americans have a potential caregiver in the family. However, millions of our aging neighbors are lonely and scared, suffering because no one is willing to help them.

Asking for help is not easy, so check on your neighbors. Reach out to the elders in your church. Make sure the people who used to care for you have all they need. Take groceries and wash their windows. Change a lightbulb and sit for a story or two. Take out the trash and bring them an ice cream sundae. Monitor the tire tread on their cars and trim the bushes. Retrieve items from the top shelf and fix a clogged drain.

One day, you will want this for yourself.

Heidi Arnold, a communication professor at Sinclair Community College. She strives to bring people of all perspectives to genuine understanding by using writing and communication skills.



REGARDING “Portman pretends the ants to help Ohioians through crisis” by Ohio Democratic Party Vice Chair Rhine McLin (Wednesday, Dec. 16): Thank you, Rhine McLin for calling out Rob Portman’s opposition to coronavirus aid. The senator has repeatedly not taken care of his constituents on that and many other issues, such as gun reform or speaking out in his party’s abuse by the hands of President Trump. Letters or emails sent to his office totally denies others’ voices and dismisses our points of view readily.


About the Author