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Going it Alone: A Scoping Review of Unbefriended Older Adults

  • Stephanie Chamberlain (a1), Sol Baik (a2) and Carole Estabrooks (a1)


Older adults who have reduced decision-making capacity and no family or friends to compensate for these deficiencies are known as unbefriended and require a public guardian. The purpose of this study was to review the peer-reviewed and grey literature to determine the scope of available research on unbefriended older adults in Canada and the United States. We found limited research examining unbefriended older adults. No Canadian studies or reports were located. Unbefriended older adults were childless or had fewer children, were more cognitively impaired, and were older than older adults who were not unbefriended. These findings demonstrate a stark scarcity of studies on unbefriended older adults. Research is urgently needed using standardized data collection of guardianship status in order to enable studies of the prevalence of public guardianship in Canada.

Les personnes âgées dont la capacité de prise de décision est réduite et qui n’ont pas de soutien familial ou d’amis pour les aider à compenser ces déficits sont dites « solitaires » et nécessitent un tuteur public. Le but de cette étude était de recenser les publications avec comités de pairs et la littérature grise afin d’examiner la portée des travaux de recherches réalisés jusqu’à ce jour concernant les personnes âgées solitaires au Canada et aux États-Unis. Nous n’avons recensé que peu d’études sur ce sujet. Aucune étude ou rapport canadien n’a été trouvé. Les personnes âgées solitaires étaient plus avancées en âge, sans enfants ou avec peu d’enfants, et leurs troubles cognitifs étaient plus sévères, comparativement aux personnes âgées non solitaires. Ces résultats démontrent une rareté des études sur les personnes âgées solitaires. Il est urgent que davantage de recherches soient réalisées avec des collectes de données standardisées concernant la tutelle chez les personnes âgées solitaires afin de faciliter la réalisation d’études sur la prévalence de la tutelle publique au Canada.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

Correspondence and requests for reprints should be sent to / La correspondance et les demandes de tirés-à-part doivent être adresées à : Stephanie A. Chamberlain, BHSc, MA, PhD Candidate Faculty of Nursing University of Alberta 5-180, Level 5 Edmonton Clinic Health Academy 11405-87 Ave. University of Alberta Edmonton, AB T6G 1C9 <>


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Stephanie Chamberlain is supported by an Alzheimer Society of Canada Doctoral Fellowship. Carole Estabrooks is supported by a Tier 1 CIHR Canada Research Chair in Knowledge Translation. No funding agency listed above had a role in the study design, data collection, data analysis, or interpretation of the data. We thank Thane Chambers (research librarian, University of Alberta) for her assistance with the literature review.



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Going it Alone: A Scoping Review of Unbefriended Older Adults

  • Stephanie Chamberlain (a1), Sol Baik (a2) and Carole Estabrooks (a1)


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