What are the implications of growing older without children? ONS report


In the UK, the Office of National Statistics published a report claiming that the rise of adults without children will lead to a demand for paid for care services for elderly people called Implications of Childlessness Amonst Tomorrows Older Population

It resulted in a number of sensationalist headline news articles in papers such as

Sky News - Number of elderly women rising and we risk sleepwalking into a crisis

The Telegraph - Childless elderly women set to treble                                           

The report points out that women born in the peak of the 1960s baby boom (currently aged in their mid-50s) are twice as likely not to have had children as women born post-WW2 (currently aged in their mid-70s).  High levels of childlessness among the 1960s baby boomers combined with increases in life expectancy mean there will be many older people in the future who do not have adult children.

As the authors summarise this is bound to lead to more older people needing paid care in the future because adult children are the most likely providers of informal care of older adults.   This is a very valid point that others have been talking about for a while.

Aging Well Without Children was set up by a group of individuals who were very concerned about the issue of growing older without children the the implications that arise for those people. 

It cannot be assumed that wider family networks will “step up” in the absence of children because an overall lower birth rate means there will be fewer people available within families and wider family networks tend to fall away as care needs get higher. It also cannot be assumed that partners will be available or able to provide the required support as they may have their own health or care needs or that such support will be offered by close friends or neighbours.

Their Our Voices report outlines the important issues that government and voluntary sector agencies need to be aware of, particularly in terms of policy and decision making on older persons care.  Throughout their work, they point out that people may be growing older without children for many reasons:  Choosing to be childfree, being childless not by choice (e.g. infertility), being estranged from their adult children or their adult children living far away.

But all these groups of people who are growing older without children face the same issues and it's up to the government to design policy and structures to support older people who will need support and help when they get older. 

I was asked to speak on BBC Three Counties Radio on the afternoon show - the link to the interview can be found here, about 2 hours and 9 minutes in.  Three Counties Radio. 

On the radio, one of my key points was that we need to look at and explore other options such as co-housing. encouraging inter-generational initatives and supporting community and faith groups that do support older people in the community.  There are lots of ways that we can encourage all older people to be properly supported in our communities. 

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