KCBS_740 (KCBS) — A growing, but lonely segment of Americans is being called ‘elder orphans.’

Close to 22-percent of Americans 65 years and older are in danger of becoming, or already are, an elder orphan. That means they have no spouse, no kids and no one to care for them as they age.

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The majority of elder orphans are women, and the number is expected to grow as Baby Boomers, as a group have more childless marriages, fewer kids, and more divorces compared to earlier generations.

Dr. Maria Carney, Chief of Geriatric Medicine at North Shore LIJ Health System is believed to have coined the term for the group.

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“As the population ages, and ages alone, and families are fractured, or not near each other, this is becoming a societal issue,” Carney told KCBS.

Carney says people need to plan ahead, and think about who they consider family – even if it’s not by blood.

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“We have to be creative. We have to see how younger generations can help support an aging population,” Carney said.