A recent article in The Washington Post focused on senior isolation and the millions of Chinese citizens living alone. There was a particular emphasis on one: Han Zicheng. He literally wanted to be adopted. Han posted note in a bus shelter. According to the Post, the headline read: “Looking for someone to adopt me.” The text that followed said: “Lonely old man in his 80s. Strong-bodied. Can shop, cook and take care of himself. No chronic illness. I retired from a scientific research institute in Tianjin, with a monthly pension of 6,000 RMB [$950] a month.” A woman saw the note and posted it on social media, and Han received extensive media coverage. Unfortunately, he died March 17 – his death mostly unnoticed, his adoption just a dream.
About 15 million people in the U.S. live alone, including 27 percent of the 65-plus population. Carol Marak, an advocate on behalf of older adults and family caregivers, calls these people “elder orphans.” Senior isolation can lead to poor physical and mental health as well as thoughts of suicide – thoughts Han had as he desperately sought companionship.