“It’s a constant battle to get any help for my mum even though she’s in her 80’s and has dementia!! I feel like I am always having to shout really loudly to get anywhere. I wonder, who will be shouting for me? or will I be the old lady dying alone in a hospital bed because no one cares?”
“As the baby-boomer generation ages, a growing ‘family care gap’ will develop as the number of older people in need of care outstrips the number of adult children able to provide it. This is expected to occur for the first time in 2017” The Generation Strain, Institute of Public Policy Research 2014
This year, for the first time, more older people need care and support than there is family to provide it. There are 1 million people over 65 without adult children in the UK and this will double to 2 million by 2030 as 1 in 5 people over 50 do not have children.
However, while there has been widespread attention on ageing-related issues such as loneliness, dementia, pensions and the pressure on the NHS and social care, the subject of ageing without children has received virtually none. There remains an unspoken assumption underlying policy and planning on ageing that older people have children and grandchildren who can provide the required help, support and care, but those without children have not been considered.
In 2014, Kirsty Woodard, who has spent over 20 years working with older people and is herself childless, founded Ageing without Children (AWOC) along with Jody Day, founder of Gateway Women, Dr Robin Hadley and Mervyn Eastman from ChangeAGEnts to begin to address the issue. The organisation, which runs on a voluntary basis and has limited funding, has been raising awareness about the issue for the past 2 years and has now secured a special meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Housing and Care for Older People to look at the issue.
Kirsty Woodard founder and director of AWOC, said
“We are absolutely thrilled to have the chance to meet with Parliamentarians and leading figures in the voluntary and public sector, to discuss the issue and hugely grateful to Lord Best, the Chair All Party Parliamentary Group on Housing and Care for Older People for giving us the opportunity. At the moment there simply is no plan B for older people who have no children or indeed any other family. 92% of all informal care is provided by family at a cost of £55 billion a year and the majority of those carers are adult children caring for parents.
“People ageing without children want to help themselves as far as possible but we need planning on ageing to start to take them into account. So far, there is huge policy gap on this issue and this must change at a national and local level.”
Independent Age, the older people’s charity, will be speaking at the meeting to outline the policy implications of increasing numbers of people ageing without children. Janet Morrison, Chief Executive of Independent Age, said:
“To a large extent our health and care systems rely on family carers but, as more and more people reach older age without children, we need to think about how we can adapt as a society. We must find new ways not just of providing informal care but also of replacing, where necessary, the role of families in choosing, organising and coordinating care. The needs of older people without children need to be considered as part of any long-term solution to social care”.