Back at the beginning of 2014, I was looking for something to do in addition to my consultancy work. Although I love consulting as it’s genuinely interesting and challenging, the downside of it can be that you don’t get to see things through. I wanted to do something where I could see the more direct impact of my work and in early 2014, with the Unltd Care Cohort awards I thought I’d found it. In January 2014, Unltd put out a call for projects that would tackle isolation & loneliness in older people. I pitched manAGEing through sport, http://manageingthroughsport.co.uk/ a social enterprise that would work with lonely older men by getting them together in groups to watch sport. I was successful and set about talking to people and going through the processes necessary to set up a new organisation. This I thought was going to be my new passion.
But it didn’t turn out like that….
2 months later in March I published this blog https://consultantinthecafe.wordpress.com/2014/03/25/1-in-4-people-born-in-the-70s-will-not-have-children-not-that-youd-know-it-from-discussions-on-ageing/
And everything changed.
The blog was picked up by The Guardian and published in April. At the same time I began to talk to colleagues in the ageing field about the issue of ageing without children, all of whom said it was an issue they themselves had not really considered and they’d never seen it raised anywhere in discussions on the future of ageing. I also got in contact with Jody Day from Gateway Women http://gateway-women.com/ – she was immensely supportive and said it was the main fear raised by many of her members: what will happen when I get old if I have no children? I also spoke to two other key people: Mervyn Eastman Chair of Positive Ageing in London and Robin Hadley from Keele University studying childless men
The topic gained momentum with further blogs, a slot on Women’s Hour and then a real breakthrough when Positive Ageing in London http://pailondon.org.uk agreed to host a conference on ageing without children in January 2015.
Mervyn, Robin, Jody and I decided that to progress the work we needed a dedicated organisation and AWOC was born in September this year http://www.awoc.org . As well as the website we have a twitter feed @AWOCUK and a facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/1476937045912974/ The Beth Johnson Foundation have agreed to host AWOC while we work out our plans going forward.
For me this has been and remains a very personal subject. Talking and writing about ageing without children brings out many feelings; sorrow at my own lack of children (I regard myself as childless as I wanted children but can’t have them as opposed to childfree, making a positive choice not to have children), anger that people ageing without children are invisible in discussions about ageing (though I think this is changing thanks to AWOC), fear of what will happen in the future, determination to make a change and pride in what has been accomplished so far with people like Jody, Mervyn and Robin and other supporters who believe in what we’re doing.
So, as you probably gather from reading this, I have found my passion though it wasn’t expected or planned!
As for manAGEing through sport, despite still believing strongly in the idea, I know that I don’t have the time to make it the success it needs to be. I’m in discussions with http://www.cravencvs.org.uk/ who hope to take it on themselves.
January 2015 brings the first AWOC conference and a slot on BBC Breakfast! Ideally I would love to run AWOC full time but to do that we need funding (working on it!). In the meantime, I’ll keep doing everything I can to raise awareness of people ageing without children.
Merry Christmas everyone and a very Happy New Year