elder orphan
(EL.dur or.fun) n. An elderly person who has no family or whose family can't or won't care for them.

Example Citation:
The moment her husband died, Loretta McAdam stopped the cuckoo clock in the kitchen of their mobile home. It remains forever frozen at 4:45 a.m. — the exact minute she became an elder orphan.

"I'm the only one left," said McAdam, 83. "I have no one."

Her husband has been gone for three years, but every day before she goes to sleep, she pats the bed beside her and wishes him good night. ...

Elder orphans — older people who have outlived all their family — are a largely ignored population whose numbers are expected to burgeon as Americans live longer and have smaller families.
—Jeff Kunerth, "Older voices cry: 'I'm the only one left'," Orlando Sentinel, September 7, 2003

Earliest Citation:
Families must take more responsibility for elderly and incapable relatives under new Riverside County conservatorship guidelines the Board of Supervisors will consider today.

"We're trying to focus on the elder orphans — those who have no support system," Lyon said. The new standards are meant "to let people know that there's a time when families and communities have to take responsibility" for the elderly, she said.
—Jack Robinson, "Tighter guardian standards are sought," Press Enterprise (Riverside, CA), January 12, 1993

There are about 10 million seniors in the U.S. who live alone. Fortunately, most of those still have family members to care for them, but about 15 percent of seniors who need care have no family support. Even if that percentage remains constant, the sheer number of elder orphans will grow thanks to the massive bulge of the baby boom which will begin reaching age 65 in 2011.

This means, unfortunately, that in a few years you'll probably be seeing a lot of the phrase elder orphan, as well as its synonyms: senior orphan (1983), older orphan (2003), orphaned elderly (1981), and orphaned senior (1993).

Related Words: