This is often the one of the first responses we get when we talk about ageing without children. We need to make it clear that we don’t think that’s why people have children; I mean really does anyone anywhere know someone who had children purely so they could be looked after in their old age?
However, the reality is that one in for people aged in their 40/50s are caring for their parents. Overall there are 7 million family carers in the UK and three in five people will become carers; 12% of people in the UK care caring for an older relative. Adult children are providing vast quantities of care to their parents as they age. Most of what they do goes unnoticed and unappreciated by the state. Government policy talks about the need to support family carers but the reality is, that support is patchy at best, nonexistent at worst.
No one has children in order to care for them in their old age but the reality is that a lot of people do end up and will end up relying on their children for support when they are old because health and social care services are underfunded and over stretched. The decimation of social care funding in particular has had a devastating effect; 90% of local authorities now only provide care to people with critical and substantial leaving people with moderate and low needs to rely on others. Government policy operates on the tacit assumption that older people will have children and that those children will take on a lot, if not all, of the care and support their parents need.
Of course, older people don’t want to rely on their children for care; I expect pretty much every bodies parents have said to them at some stage “I don’t want you to look after me”. Older people would much rather spend quality time with their children than have them cleaning the house, doing their shopping or giving them a shower. However, if that help isn’t being provided any other way and will simply not get done then inevitably those care and support tasks will fall to people’s chidren. We need services that don’t expect families to fill the gap; services that recognise 2 million people will age without children.
We believe that a world that understands that 20-25% of people will age without children and responds accordingly will be a better world for ALL older people, both for those with children and those without.