The Elder Orphan in Healthcare Settings: an Integrative Review


The issues of older adults outliving family members and living alone with no family support or existing social networks raise concerns on the health and wellbeing needs of this particular population group. This article explores the concept of orphaned older adults within the healthcare context through an integrative review of literature. The review utilized online health databases and online publishing platforms for grey literature. Eight articles focusing on elder orphans within the healthcare literature were included in this review. Four emerging themes were identified: characteristics of the older adult orphan; healthcare and clinical oversight; older adult orphans’ support services; and ‘older adult orphan’ as an advocacy healthcare terminology. Elder orphans are vulnerable older adults who may have current stable health status, yet are at risk of health-related issues which could hinder their decision making ability in the future. The conceptualization of becoming orphaned in advanced age opens an important dialogue in the healthcare sector and encourages attention from health professionals to consider and to be more aware of this vulnerable population group among older people. It is important that the use of this otherwise non-clinical term defining orphancy in older age or even those at risk be more visible and accepted, for the purpose of clinical assessment and coordination of care for both acute and long-term/community settings. Health professionals and clinicians act as advocates when screening and assessment for older adult orphans are undertaken at all levels and across healthcare settings.

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Correspondence to Jed Montayre.

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Montayre, J., Montayre, J. & Thaggard, S. The Elder Orphan in Healthcare Settings: an Integrative Review. Population Ageing 12, 515–532 (2019).

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  • Elder orphans
  • Health and social support services
  • Caregiving
  • Older adult assessment