The challenges of ageing without children

Jun 29, 2015 | BLOG

By: Kirsty Woodard, Ageing Without Children

“I am power of attorney for my mother and this takes time and research to ensure her money is well invested, who will do this for me?”
“Having enough money, that’s the crucial thing. If you don’t have children but have money you can at least pay for someone to look after you but what if you don’t?”

“I don’t have anyone who can act on my behalf, no children, no family, nothing! Tell me who is going to make sure I’m not ripped off?”

Comments received to the Ageing without Children survey 2015

1 in 5 people over 50 don’t have children and by 2030, 2 million people will be over 65 without adult children. Many more will not have support from their adult children for other reasons e.g. they are estranged, they reside a long way away. Ageing without Children has been set up to consider the impact of this on both individual older people and wider society. As part of this, earlier this year we carried out an online survey of 400 people ageing without children. The full survey can be found here.

The issue of finance and especially the management of money featured heavily in responses. Firstly there were worries about not having enough money in later life. Respondents to the survey felt that because they had no adult children they would have to pay for far more things in old age than perhaps those who had children might have to. Most of this was focused around low level support such as basic DIY tasks e.g. unblocking sinks, fixing taps, clearing gutters, putting together flatpack furniture, garden upkeep such as mowing the lawn and housework tasks e.g. taking down, washing and rehanging curtains for which they would have to call someone out professionally whereas people with family have children or grandchildren who may well do this for them. When it came to more hands on care, there was widespread expectation that they would be paying for this themselves in the absence of alternatives. However, many were worried about how affordable this was especially people who were both single and without children. An additional worry on top of this would be that there would be no one to monitor how good the care would be, whether care needs where being met, whether the service was delivering what was being paid for and who would handle complaints if the services wasn’t up to scratch.

“The role of an attorney carries a great deal of power and responsibility so it’s important you trust the person you choose” – Age UK,

Choosing an Attorney

Secondly people were concerned about managing of money. Many fears were expressed about what would happen if they lost the ability to deal with their own finances or make decisions about their own care. Not having anyone to act in their best interests or hold power of attorney was a real worry. While a professional can be appointed as an attorney, as one respondent said “there is no substitute for having the input of someone who cares….you’re at the mercy of the system and the random decisions of people, who even if they do their best, cannot possibly care at the same level as family”

Ageing without children therefore presents real challenges to organisations working with older people and to the wider financial and legal sector.

How can we ensure that older people ageing without children are able to plan their later life sufficiently well and with enough resources to ensure they can afford to pay for the help and care they need? How can we increase the capacity of advocacy services too act for older people without children? How will the legal profession deal with increasing numbers of people without relatives to act as power of attorney?

These and many other questions need consideration. If we start to consider them now we have time to develop solutions, but if we wait, we will be placing older people ageing without children in a vulnerable position.

Kirsty Woodard

Founder, Ageing without children

Kirsty has 20 years experience of working in the field of ageing. She began in 1994 running an advocacy and advice service for older people before becoming the manager of Well & Wise healthy living centre for older people in Camden, a partnership of 13 member organisations in Camden. She went on to advise Age UK on social care policy and service development models.