Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Mission Grows to Help Those Living Alone

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Mission Grows to Help Those Living Alone

Article excerpt

Every weekday morning at 6:45, a silver car pulls into the driveway of a pristine Colonial a few doors from us. The driver, dressed in a white shirt and tie, sprints up the steps to the front door and lets himself in. This is the house where he grew up and where his widowed mother still lives. The two visit briefly, then he returns to his car at 7:00 and heads to work.

Mission accomplished.

For him, these daily stops offer reassurance that all is well with his mother, who is nearing 90. For her, they provide a way to maintain her independence and stay in the house that has been her home for four decades. On weekends, her family's visits last longer and include outings for errands and pleasure.

It's the kind of caring attention Americans will need in abundance in coming years as the ranks of older people living alone continue to grow. Already, among those over 85 - the fastest- growing age group in the country - 52 percent of women and 29 percent of men live alone.

For me, the visits by our neighbor's son carry added poignancy in the wake of California's heat wave last month. The majority of fatalities attributed to the scorching temperatures were older residents living alone in homes without air conditioning. Although aid workers went door to door in certain areas, they arrived too late in some cases.

How different the scenario could have been if concerned friends or relatives had been able to check on them earlier.

Similarly, nearly half of those who did not survive hurricane Katrina were over 75. Older evacuees have also faced the greatest challenges since then.

Ageism takes many forms. One is neglect. Retirees are often among the most invisible members of society.

So invisible, in fact, that most rescue and recovery plans for major disasters seldom mention older people, according to Paul Kleyman, editor of Age Beat, a newsletter for journalists.

Surely that will change. As the one-year anniversary of Katrina approaches this month, government officials and advocates for the elderly are learning lessons from the tragedy that will help to protect older people during future emergencies. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.