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Older aged and all alone. What is the impact of being childless in the time of COVID-19?

October 09, 2020  · 2 min read

The coronavirus pandemic has impressed upon the world the dreadful impact of isolation on mental health and overall health and wellbeing on populations of all ages, and especially older people. While many have taken this as an opportunity to better support one another within their families, some older women are facing a different reality with staggering unmet care needs, discrimination and without children who may have provided support.

A recent article in The Guardian explores an uncommon perspective:

What does it mean to be childless in later life?


Given that in some societies there is a reliance on adult children to provide care for their parents, support programs and services may not be available to meet the care needs of older people .

Women also experience pervasive criticism for the divergence from societal expectations of child bearing whereas data on men without children is not collected.


“It’s somehow their own fault if there is no one to look after them.”

                                              - Jody Day, founder of Gateway Women


Is there a care crisis now and in the future that we are not seeing?

A report from the United Kingdom’s Office for National Statistics suggests an increasing need for formal caregiving services, in light of a decreasing kinship (informal) caregiving:

  • Forty-one percent of those aged 80 years and over are not receiving help and support needed.
  • By 2045 there will be a threefold increase in the number of women who reach the age of 80 and do not have children.
  • Older adults who do not have children are 25% more likely to go into residential care than those with children.

While these statistics are revealing, a broader conversation must be had to bring attention the care needs of older women who have had children and are no longer alive, or children who do not live in close proximity or children who choose not to be involved in their parent’s care.

Many residential facilities are undervalued, underfunded and struggling to cope with the current demand let alone the future. Civil society in many countries is calling for a substantial overhaul to meet the rising demand in coming years.

The International Federation on Ageing (IFA) believes that governments must develop integrated systems that support long-term care provision based on need, and which reflect the inherent diversity of ageing populations. The upcoming 15th Global Conference on Ageing will explore new and innovative models of long-term care systems needed to respond to changing demographics and societal norms.

If you are a journalist covering this topic – the let the experts help with your stories.

- Dr. Sytse Zuidema, Professor of Elderly Care Medicine and Dementia in the Netherlands

- Prof. Ariela Lowenstein, Head of the Social Gerontology Center for Research in Israel

These experts are available to speak with media about the need to improve formal and informal caregiving frameworks – simply click on either expert’s icon to arrange an interview today.


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