Two of the key role models for AWOC are Carers UK and Campaign to End Loneliness. Both took issues that had been known about but over looked or brushed aside as too difficult to deal with and by relentless campaigning coupled with research and engaging with the people affected, forced them into the public eye.
At the LGA Conference, Jeremy Hunt announced a new Carers strategy which is to be welcomed, (it will be even more welcomed if it has resources attached to it!) The Campaign to End Loneliness is asking health and wellbeing boards to include loneliness in their strategies. Do we need a strategy for people ageing without children?
The experiences of people ageing without children would suggest we do. While research is now routinely carried out to identify how many of the population are carers (and rightly so), there is no research at all to identify how many of the population are ageing without children i.e. data which includes men as well as women. Even though we have fertility statistics for women, these still only give a high level figure of how many women have not become mothers. It doesn’t tell us where they are located geographically for example so we don’t know if there are certain areas with a higher proportion of women ageing without children. We have simply no idea about men at all. It is likely that the impact of people ageing without children will fall mostly on already over stretched local authorities, how can local authorities plan for this if they don’t even know how many people in their area are ageing without children?
People ageing without children have identified in particular the need for
– Access to advocacy to ensure they have someone to speak up for them in the absence of family.
– Access to services that will help them manage finances if they lose capacity and in particular people willing to act as power of attorney.
– Health services in particular to not assume there is family to provide support on discharge, and for hospitals to identify at an early stage where there is no family support in place
– More support for co housing and shared housing options
– More intergenerational programmes so they don’t become cut off from younger generations
– Access to advice on how to plan for later life
All of this needs to be factored into strategies around ageing. I’ve not seen any evidence, though very happy to be corrected, that local authorities are factoring it in.
Of course a strategy of itself doesn’t change things on its own but having been involved with developing many strategies, it’s been my experience that often the most valuable part of a strategy is the process by which it comes together. It brings together people from a range of organisations to focus on an issue. It’s an opportunity to look at the facts, challenge beliefs and consider ways forward. As people do this, they go back to their own organisations and start to make changes there.
One of the main difficulties people ageing without children face are the assumptions that people make about them e.g. they all have big friendship circles, they all have lots of money because they didn’t have to spend it bringing up children, they all chose not to have children in the first place. A space where some of these assumptions can be aired and discussed would be really welcomed.
AWOC is more than happy to work with organisations and share its knowledge and expertise to develop strategies for people ageing without children. It would be really nice to be asked!