“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?”
At the beginning of 2015, Ageing without Children (AWOC) carried out an online survey of 400 people ageing without children. The full survey report and analysis can be viewed and downloaded here: awocsurvey15
- The biggest fear (92 respondents) was having no one to speak up for them or act in their best interests when they could no longer do so for themselves
- 78 feared being lonely and losing their peer group
- 65 were worried they had no one to call on in emergency
- 50 were afraid they would be abused or neglected
- Other major issues were; help with practical tasks (36), being unable to afford care (24), end of life care (24), poor care from the NHS (20),
- In terms of services, co-housing was the most popular (84% in favour), followed by ‘networks of community volunteers’ (thought useful by 73%), and joint housing (55%). There was also support for the idea of surrogate grand-parenting (42% in favour) and shared living arrangements (36%).
- However, many other service options were also listed as important with access to information and advice, advocacy and care navigator services to coordinate and support people to access support all being key.
- It was notable that many people seemed not be aware of services that already existed highlighting a gap in awareness and marketing of services.
- 90% felt that the Government had not recognised the numbers of people ageing without children and felt they were unaware of the impact on health and social care, or regarded it as unimportant.
- The majority of respondents felt that wider society was unaware of the numbers of people ageing without children or did not see it as their problem to worry about.
- Two thirds of respondents had wanted children but been unable to have them for medical reasons or other life circumstances but one third had made a positive decision to be childfree.
- It is clear that in order to support the rising numbers of people ageing without children, there will be a great need for Information & advice, Advocacy services, Care coordination/care navigator services, Services that provide practical assistance, A greater range of housing options, A range of technological solutions – accompanied by support to help people learn how to use them.
However it goes beyond the need for services; there is clearly a need to change culture and mindsets within organisations and the wider community.
- Government planning on ageing needs to take into account that increasing numbers of people will get old without family support.
- Local authorities particularly need to do far more to identify how many people in their area are likely to age without children and incorporate this into strategies on ageing
- Health and social care services must not assume that there is family support to plug gaps in provision of care or that there is a family member making sure that what is meant to be being provided, is being provided.
- Within the wider community, there is a need to invest in intergenerational programmes and activities so that cross generation contact becomes the norm for people whether or not they have children or grandchildren.
- The assumption that everyone who has family could or should be cared for by them needs to be challenged. Rhetoric that centres on families being responsible for the care of older people is unhelpful and should stop. Instead, all people whether they have children or not should be encouraged to make plans for their later life that take into account what will happen if they do need help or care
The full survey report and analysis can be viewed and downloaded here: awocsurvey15
We are trying to find out more about the wider family relationships of people ageing without children. Online survey here Survey on wider family relationships