Methods: Using the University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study Core Final longitudinal dataset (2014) we analyzed a subsample of community-dwelling male veteran (n=2,935) and nonveteran (3,076) respondents, age 55-99. Veterans were respondents who answered "Yes" to the question "Have you ever served in the active military?" in any wave of the HRS study since 1992.
Results: Veterans were more likely to be White (80.1%) compared to nonveterans (70.2%). They were significantly less likely to be coupled/partnered (73%) compared to nonveterans (77.1), (χ2(1) = 42.4, p < .001). There was a significant association between having an advance directive for veterans (69.6%) compared to nonveterans (30.4%), (χ2(1) = 42.4, p < .001). Veterans were also significantly more likely to discuss their medical care with friends or family (67.5%) than were nonveterans (32.5%), (χ2(1) = 24.3, p <.001). However, there were no significant differences between veterans and nonveterans for living within 10 miles of children or relatives, living near friends, or having close friends or relatives to call upon for assistance with activities of daily living for an extended period of time.
Conclusions and Implications: Although older male veterans were less likely than nonveterans to be coupled/partnered, a known risk factor for elder orphan status, they actually had more protective factors than nonveterans, such as having advance directives and discussing medical care with family and friends. Having advance directives and discussing medical care with family and friends are protective against life challenges and buffer the impact of being an elder orphan.