Waco, Texas (CNN)Inez Russell grew up believing that everyone had someone to care for them. But in 1989, she learned that was not the case.
While visiting her father in the hospital, Russell heard a woman screaming.
"I found this lady who was close to 90, and she was crying," Russell said. "She grabbed my arm and said, 'I'm dying, and I don't want to die alone. Please don't leave me.'"
That encounter led to another, then another. Russell began seeing firsthand the countless struggles faced by elders living alone.
One woman lived in the dark because she had no one to change the light bulbs. Another couldn't remember the last time she had a meal. And Russell said many were taken advantage of financially, losing their money and their homes.
In the United States, more than 11 million senior citizens live alone.
The elderly are often invisible and forgotten, especially with so many in nursing homes or living alone in their own homes.
And it's a population that is growing fast. By 2030, one in five U.S. citizens will be 65 or older, according to U.S. Census Bureau projections.
To help this frail and vulnerable population, Russell started Friends for Life. The nonprofit enlists advocates and friends for seniors in Texas who need a helping hand.
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'I don't want to die alone' plea prompts Texas woman to help the elderly