The loneliness of being a childless person as an elder. The occasional dark emptiness of it. A gaping hole where children and grandchildren should be.
Let's give it another name. Eccentricity. Different. Sometimes welcome, sometimes not, but exotically divergent..
Being ageing without children can be evocative and emotive. Let it not be divisive…
I don't do resolutions. Too old, too changeable, too know- all. I'm not joking, That's not to say I'm always, if ever, right is it?
On the other hand, I will strive to be opinionated and honest. But one must also strive to be fair and kind.
So, moving on with that sentiment…
We had our local AWOC (AgeingWithoutChildren) group meeting over the Christmas holiday period. Small but perfectly formed. We're not large in numbers (yet) but we are quality. Lovely folk.
Now, one of the subjects that caused a bit of heat was the occasionally divisive one of childless by choice/childfree (usually meaning a person has made a concerted choice not to have children) or simply childless (like me - no choice in the matter, usually because of infertility). Not just female infertility but male infertility, also.
So, I have my opinion on the subject of childless or childfree, which I've kept mainly to myself, so far. I will say this (so far). If we are to garner support, in particular from organisations like social care and NHS, we need to prepare our pitch. Because, make no mistake, this is a sales game. We are selling ourselves. Our product is us, as a group of people, and most importantly - our message. In a nutshell we are a growing group of ageing folk who have no children therefore no immediate, familial support. The numbers are set to increase. Our message needs to be on point.
What is our message?
It seems to me our message, albeit thus far, would be for social care and NHS to sit up and take note because we are coming. Those of us ageing without children et al are undoubtedly coming, albeit, arrived. As already said, nationally and wordlwide, we are increasing in numbers. We must be formerly acknowledged and recognised as a group. An official group of people recognised by social care/NHS for both sides' sakes.
Communities need to get officially and formally involved in the informal care of those of us ageing and alone but that's another blog piece. I believe if we don't do something, those organisations really will collapse under the strain, particularly if they don't prepare themselves for the influx of ageing aloners during the coming years. We have no support nor recognition. In a crisis we have to go somewhere so it's straight to either of the above organisations. Communities with a contact for each awoc, could step in to take the initial strain. It needs tightening up, of course it does. It's at first base.
Now, that is my very brief resume of where my head is. And the sales pitch for those of us, from all denominations may not go so well if a childfree person is bestowing the virtues of ageing without children. On that basis someone in authority might grumpily make the point that a person who made the active, concerted big decision to not have children also presumably considered all the ramifications of remaining childfree for the rest of their lives?
(In a connected/sub heading kind of way, one could say being without children or any familial support, is a different form of disability in old age. We're often left all alone to cope with absolutely no one to help us. A bit like my arthritis - and the rest 😋 That'll be all of we childfree/childless by the way).
*** An aside: Should childlessness/living totally alone with no familial support/no family, be taken into consideration on official formfilling? Particularly with regard to disability form filling. Blimey, that's another blog piece…
Lilley and I in Chambers Wood, Wragby, Lincolnshire. Wonderful, mystical place.
So, I say again, the sales pitch needs to be good, relevant and sympathy stirring. Also (and I've seen this before my very eyes) conscience-calling because your official has children and grandchildren and you, poor soul pouring your sad, childless heart out, has no one. Add your tear jerking story to accompany the eventual pitch. It will be a true story because so often our stories can be a tear jerker.
I am simply being practical and honest as I see it. I just wonder if our presentation or pitch headlined with the story of how we are so darned happy living the Bridget Jones lifestyle, who needs kids, who needs the baggage, who needs the financial burden - might not grab the attention? Quite often for the younger folk, this one (fair enough) - but NOT ALWAYS.
***Not exclusively for the childfree either, by the way. Not exclusively for anyone as parents with older kids can also travel et al and, in fact, do all that we older childless do. Saying…
When, as a childless/free person, one heads towards the elderly bracket then you turn to officialdom with your 'what's available for a childless/childfree person who has no family to look after or care for them'? I reckon we start to totter towards officialdom as one ages.
Agree that not all families are available to care for one's elderly relative. Often they are at the end of the phone or some form of communication though and, if not, then you would probably like to join Ageing Without Children for support?
We are forming groups all over the internet, on social media, articles popping up in national journals. Many are written by the childfree. Some written by the childless. Different stances may be stated.
What we have to decide is the point of it. To keep reading about the pure joy of being childfree is fine. If you are childless by choice, I guess. If you are childless not by choice, I can tell you, for me it's getting me down. It turns out I need help because I'm childless, old and disabled. I was/am unprepared. I need a voice.
I got over the loss of no children by getting on with my life, work and socialising. It didn't mean I was happy about being childless. But, now I'm elderly, it's like a great, gaping hole where a family should be. So, not only do I turn down an operation because no one to care for me when I return home or look after Lilley, I also feel the loneliness of being a childless person as an elder.
I think that - as many of the childfree age - often they feel the same.
Recently, Christmas hasn't helped as media highlights families and sod the rest of us. We all get hacked off about that.
The childfree and childless need to work together. Understand each others' viewpoint. But speak it politely and don't shout. Also, understand that someone who is ageing (please don't say we're all ageing. At my age do you think that had passed me by?), in particular over 60s, will likely have a different viewpoint to a younger person's. When I was younger - well - never mind 😉
Maybe the childfree could try to understand some of the childless' occasional longing and emptiness of having no family? The childless get where the childfree are coming from and gently try to prepare them for older age. I'm talking more official/medical perspective.
If we want authorities and officials to listen to us they might listen to the, sometimes, frightened sound of the desperate voices of those who are without children, now elderly, possibly disabled and helpless. Because we are childless or childfree, often with a very sad story to tell. Would you agree that for 'talking to an official' purpose the word 'childless' sounds more compelling? If we are without children we are all childless. If you're selling, you get your result using the best tools at your disposal. All parties will, hopefully, benefit.
This is not a competition. Let's put it this way - it's not a competition I'd have chosen given a choice.
We are trying to make your older years more comfortable and more confident in the support of social care etc., than ours can sometimes be and has been. As older childless folk. Support each other, don't fight or score points.
We really are all in this together!
I'm sorry this is not perfect and won't suit everyone. Because things don't - suit everyone do they? But, I've done my best. If you got to the end, thank you…