More American seniors at risk of becoming "elder orphans"

Clarence Blackmon is an 81-year-old Army veteran battling prostate cancer. But cancer wasn't the reason he called 911. A widower since 2011, Blackmon came home from the hospital last week to an empty fridge and had no one to help him, prompting him to call 911 for help.

"What I need is someone to get to the grocery store and bring me some food because I need to eat something," said Blackmon in his 911 call. "Whatever you can do to help. I can't do anything. I can't go anywhere. I can't get out of my damn chair."

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Clarence Blackmon
CBS News

In a recent report, Dr. Maria Carney of North Shore-LIJ Health System says a quarter of Americans over 65 are at risk of becoming so-called "elder orphans."

"It's hard to age even when you have a good support system. So you can only imagine if you don't have anybody with you to help you," said Dr. Carney.

About a third of Americans aged 45 to 63 are single, a 50% increase since 1980, according to the 2012 U.S. Census. The report says elder orphans not only combat loneliness and depression, they lack assistance for their basic needs.

Marilyn Hinson was the 911 dispatcher who took Blackmon's call. She was so struck by his plea that she took a detailed list of his food requests and personally delivered them.

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About a third of Americans aged 45 to 63 are single, a 50% increase since 1980, according to the 2012 U.S. Census.
CBS News

"I've been hungry. A lot of people can't say that, but I can, and I can't stand for anyone to be hungry," said Hinson."

Blackmon was then inundated with donations and offers to help. He says one lady sent him six cans of Spam.

"I thought, God, I'm in heaven now, I've got six cans of Spam," said Blackmon.

Dr. Carney had a great idea -- to develop an app where you put in a zip code and are told about the local resources available.

  • Jonathan LaPook

    Dr. Jonathan LaPook is the chief medical correspondent for the CBS Evening News. Follow him on Twitter at @DrLaPook