The rapidly rising number of elderly Americans has prompted the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) to unveil guidelines for a segment of these older adults who can no longer make their own medical decisions and have no designated surrogates. The nonprofit dubbed them “unbefriended” and called for a national effort to help prevent a surge among incapacitated seniors who don’t have a decision maker and face a health crisis. Single seniors have always existed, but demographic and social changes have slowly transformed aging America. In 1900, average life expectancy was 47. Now, the combination of increased longevity, the large and graying baby boom generation, the decline in marriage, the rise in divorce, increased childlessness and family mobility has upended the traditional caregiving support system. Timothy Farrell, a physician and associate professor at the University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City who worked on the new AGS policies, said he would “regularly encounter patients with no clear surrogate decision maker.” The guidelines include “identifying ‘non-traditional’ surrogates — such as close friends, neighbors, or others who know a person well.” Boosting social ties among elders is part of a national campaign launched last week by the AARP Foundation and the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, a nonprofit. The aim is to combat loneliness.
For the article from Kaiser Health News, click here.