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Ageing without children; the importance of preparation and planning

Patrick Thomson writes about his experience attending the Ageing Without Children conference, where the value of preparing for later life was discussed.

The Institute of Public Policy Research estimates that by 2030 there will be 2 million people aged over 65 without adult children, up from 1.2 million in 2012.

Last month I attended the Ageing Without Children (AWOC) national conference in Birmingham. We discussed the importance of planning and preparing for later life, different models of living and housing, the changing social structure of our ageing population and what that means for individuals.

It was a rewarding and enlightening day, sharing ideas and experiences with a wide range of people. As our research Later Life in 2015 shows, the experience of ageing is hugely diverse. Our research shows the importance of social connections – the image often presented is that families, partners and children will be the bedrock of those relationships. While that is true for some, our research highlighted that simply doesn’t reflect the lives of many people as they age.

AWOC defines ‘people ageing without children’ as those over the age of 50 who have no children in their lives, either because they have never been parents or because their children have died, are estranged from them or are living far away.

The Institute of Public Policy Research estimates that by 2030 there will be 2 million people aged over 65 without adult children, up from 1.2 million in 2012. Approximately 230,000 will need more than 20 hours’ care a week, and many will have to find this support from someone other than immediate family.

The growing numbers of people ageing without children is the result of huge social changes over recent decades: changes in household size and structure; people living far away from family members; and increasing numbers of older ‘out’ LGBT people. Some themes kept coming up in conversation throughout the day:

  • The importance of practical and financial planning such as having a fit for purpose will and lasting power of attorney. This is a hugely important factor for anyone but particularly when you consider that the legal system assumes inheritance by children and doesn’t account for ‘common law’ partners. There are real problems with people dying intestate, without a will and not knowing the desires of the deceased.
  • A concern of many attendees was having a trusted person who can advocate for them when they need support.
  • Considering how and where we will live as we age – there are a number of new and exciting models of home ownership and shared living.
  • Many people raised the importance of positive, significant things that provide them with meaning and purpose. For everyone this will be different, whether it is a thirst for a new skill or knowledge, or taking part in a cause or community that has a particular meaning.
  • The importance of planning and preparing for major life changes, not just the financial aspects but also being emotionally prepared.

Ageing Better is working to help more people prepare for and manage major life changes, and to live in homes that are suitable and will allow them to live a good later life. The conference underscored for me the importance of finding solutions that will really work for everyone, rather than assuming we are all the same.

Read Patrick’s presentation from AWOC conference.

Patrick Thomson
Senior Programme Manager – Fulfilling work