Where did AWOC come from?
There are 3 factors that brought about the development of AWOC.
- Despite the growing numbers of people ageing without children, our existence barely features in any discussions on ageing by national Government, local Government, NHS or the third sector.
- Increasing comments from politicians saying that caring for older people should be the responsibility of their families not the state at the same time that there are massive cuts to public services.
- Recognition that older people without family to intercede on their behalf often have poorer experiences of health and social care and other services.
Who is involved?
AWOC was founded by Kirsty Woodard who runs it full time on a voluntary basis, Mervyn Eastman Chair of Positive Ageing in London, Jody Day who set up Gateway Women from women childless by circumstance and Robin Hadley from Keele University who is an expert in childlessness in older men. We also have volunteers working locally to set up local AWOC groups.
What do you mean by “without children”?
People ageing without children includes
- people who have never had children either by choice or by circumstance
- people whose children have predeceased them
- people who are estranged from their children
- people whose children may live very far away from them
There may be other reasons why people feel they are ageing without children and we are happy to include anyone who self defines as ageing without children
How many people are we talking about?
20% people over 50 have no children and by 2030 it is estimated that 2 million people over 65 will have no children.
Is AWOC open to men as well?
AWOC is open to both men and women; ageing without children affects both men and women equally.
Haven’t most people without children made a choice not to have them?
There is very little research into this area. What there is suggests that most people without children wanted to have them and were unable to for a variety of reasons rather than making a positive choice not to have any.
It is our view that it doesn’t matter why people arrive at later life without children, many of the issues people face will still be the same whether they chose not to have children or wanted them and couldn’t have them.
Why does it matter if older people don’t have children?
Public services especially social care and the NHS generally assume that there are adult children around to help fill the gaps in services. So for example, that there is probably an adult child around to run someone to appointments, help with tasks like cleaning and shopping, remind people to take medication, help with exercises, change dressings etc. The system is not geared up for people without family to help them and at the same time reductions in public spending mean that many services that were there to help fill this gap now longer exist. Consequently people ageing without children can be left without support and help at a time when they need it most.
People with dementia are particularly vulnerable if they have no one to speak up for them.
Why do you assume people’s children will look after them?
All the evidence we have suggests that the vast majority of people with children do get a lot of support from them when they are older. Of course there are exceptions but generally children do offer support to their older parents if they are in a position to do so. This support can be anything from helping with small everyday tasks that enable older people able to live at home independently for longer to providing hands on personal care. Often one of the key things people’s children do is advocate on their behalf, arranging services, interceding with third parties, monitoring what is provided, identifying when things are not working properly and making complaints. AWOCs recent survey identified that the real worry for most people Ageing without Children is that lack of someone to speak on their behalf.
Why do you think people’s children should look after them? Aren’t they allowed to have their own lives?
We don’t. We absolutely think that adult children should not have to fill the gaps in social care and health or deal with services and institutions on behalf of their parents. We believe there should be a range of services available to people in later life to help them stay independent for as long as possible. We think adult children should be free to spend quality time with their parents rather than having to do tasks that could, or should, be done by others including social care and health. If we make things better for people ageing without children, we will make things better for all older people.
How is AWOC funded?
AWOC receives no funding and is financed entirely by public donations. You can donate to us here