30 Mar 2020
Currently 40% of the 6.5 million carers in the UK are supporting an elderly parent and there is an inbuilt expectation that adult children will provide help to their parents as they age.
One in 5 people over 50 are not a parent; the percentage of women who have never given birth has jumped from 9% to 19% in a generation and is expected to rise even higher in the next generation. By 2030 it is estimated there will be 2 million people over 65 without adult children. This will have a profound impact on how support and care for older people is managed in the decades to come.
Ageing without Children recently published Our Voices a report detailing the thoughts, feelings and ideas of people ageing without children. The report highlights that the key concerns are far broader than worries about who will look after them. They are concerned about being invisible and marginalised in a family centric society, being judged for not being parents and wondering who will tell their story and make them a real person to services if they lose their capacity, for example through dementia. They also articulate a need for practical support and express fear about being disconnected from younger generations, especially after retirement.
Many people ageing without children are or have themselves been carers and a lot of these concerns stem from their own lived experience of supporting their own parents. Some of the solutions suggested in the report to address this include: a national strategy for people ageing without children, advice and assistance to plan for later life, more advocacy and investment in intergenerational programmes.
There is a need to think about care and support but also far more broadly, how do we connect and keep connected people ageing without children, especially across the generations? How do we ensure that they are helped to plan for later life and that advocacy is there for them when they need it? And above all, how do we ensure that the needs of people ageing without children are included and addressed within discussions on ageing where currently they are largely invisible?
The Centre for Ageing Better represents a wonderful opportunity to address emerging issues in the sector. The Centre’s crosscutting remit and evidence based approach means that issues like ageing without children can be addressed across the whole spectrum of ageing, from feeling prepared for later life to being connected and feeling in control. We are delighted to see an organisation take on these issues and look forward to a future in which more people enjoy a good later life.
Kirsty has 20 years’ experience working in the field of ageing, including managing a healthy living centre, advising on social care policy and helping organisations to redesign services for older people.