Childless Aging

April 20, 2018

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Unsplash


Aging requires planning. The earlier you start, the better, but today, more people than ever before are facing another issue. We mean the childless aging population, who need to make an extra effort to make sure they receive proper care at a later age. The US population is aging fast, and the share of childless adults is growing even faster.

In 2010, AARP reports, the share of childless women in the 80-84 segment was 11.6%, while by 2030 there will be as many as 16%. While it’s certainly a positive development that the society’s attitudes towards childlessness are becoming more neutral, and having a baby is no longer a social requirement or a sign of fulfilled life or successful marriage, the issue of elderly care remains complicated. Meanwhile, 65-70% of older adults will, in fact, require some long-term care, and while, of course, there’s no guarantee that one’s children will be able or willing to take care of them, for the childless aging adults the prospects are clear, and they need to take matters into their own hands.

Family members are the backbone of elderly care, and the health care and social systems on their own have no way of being able to provide care for everyone who requires it. As of this day there are approximately 43 million family members involved in caring for an older adult in the United States. Unfortunately, the ‘caregiver support ratio’ is also dwindling. The number of potential 45-64 caregivers, who are a crucial part of this equation, is decreasing, and is projected to decrease to four caregivers for each 80+ person in need of care by 2030, while back in 2010 it was seven. By 2050, when the baby boomers are all retired and at a point of needing late-life care, this ratio is set to fall further to 3:1.

What all of these statistics come down to is the need to prepare, whether you are childless or a happy parent of five. Even your best-intentioned adult children may have certain circumstances of their own that would prevent them from being able to provide as much care as you may need.

What are some of the steps to be taken? What do you need to know?

The health care system is increasingly more stretched for resources, and there really isn’t a way to predict what state it will be in by 2030 or 2050. While it’s still in place, it’s important that you understand that Medicare already doesn’t cover any long-term daily care activities, only strictly medical care. Medicaid, on the other hand, may cover some, but it only extends its services to low-income populations. There is also a variety of state-specific supplementary care programs for the aging population, but these need to be checked on a state-by-state basis. Most of the long-term care is usually covered by personal savings or long-term care insurance, which needs to be selected very carefully and can be tricky.

It’s important to prepare for certain decisions in advance by drawing up a power of attorney, a healthcare proxy, a will and a living will. It seems better to be expressing your own wishes, rather than have someone advocate for you, which may be emotionally burdensome on that person, and may not coincide with the decisions you would have made yourself. Patient advocacy, however, is still very important, and in cases when there are no children to advocate for an elderly parent or relative, it may be done by close friends, long-standing neighbors, or someone else in a close enough relationship.

Communal living with like-minded friends seems like a very positive way to stay connected socially and watch out for each other.

And, of course, the usual – stay fit both physically and mentally, eat healthy, remain as active as possible for as long as possible and make sure you’ve given the future some thought.

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