Childfree – Do You Worry Who Will Take Care of You When You Get Old?

The economic meltdown of the past couple of years has turned so called conventional wisdom on it’s head. From being independent children who had supposedly “left the nest” are returning to their parents home or, in some cases never leaving. With housing getting steadily out of the reach of most ordinary folk the trend looks set to continue. “Retirement” assuming you were thinking of it, has become a distant dream for many. (I’ve no intention of retiring)

For the childfree the question “so who will look after you when you get old?” is never far away. It’s usually on the end of a “bingo” from childed people. Reason being that having children is still seen as a kind of insurance policy… and what with long term care costing stratospheric amounts of cash many who have children either expect or secretly hope their kids will take care of them when they can’t take care of themselves. Even if they don’t admit it, the hope is there. If it wasn’t I doubt it would be a bingo.

Of course we know that this can often be a misplaced expectation. Stories abound of parents, left to a lonely existence in homes or even in their own homes with never a visit from their kids or the grandkids. They don’t even get a phone call, let alone a visit from their children. I think it must be tough to have given so much of your life to rearing kids only to be abandoned in your old age. Or the children may live thousands of miles away… or have other problems. In some cultures this is less of a “problem” as children are traditionally expected to look after the parents – the parents often move in with them. I have a colleague who’s built a special house with a “granny flat” attached to it.

The childfree are likely to face an interesting situation…. having to  potentially care for own parents while having to sort out who’s going to be looking after us. Or how to put enough funds aside to ensure one remains independent.

For the latter I believe a lot needs to change. For example the childfree should have more incentives to save for their later years instead of seeing the bulk of their taxes going to support child related services. More tax breaks fro the childfree would be a good start. Either way it will be up to the childfree to have a plan of action. What should that plan look like?

What do you answer when people ask the “what will you do when…?” question. What issues can you see looming? Or are there no issues at all? What else needs to change and what support do the childfree need?  What else can you add to this article?

Share your thoughts.

46 thoughts on “Childfree – Do You Worry Who Will Take Care of You When You Get Old?

  1. childfreekey

    See, if I were to have kids, I wouldn’t WANT them to look after me in old age, because I don’t think it’d be fair, especially if I got really ill. I mean, I CHOSE to have kids, so they shouldn’t have to pay me back for something they technically didn’t ask for!

    But seeing as how I’m not having kids and all, I don’t know what’s going to happen in my old age. I’m unemployed and on disability, and I’m 18, so it’s not exactly a big thing in my life at the moment. Here in the UK, they’re trying to up the retirement age, and there’s been a fair few pension scandals where a company-wide pension scheme has gone bust, leaving people without any money. The most famous group of victims protest this in the nude, holding signs saying “stripped of our pensions”. State pensions are pitiful, too. So I really don’t know what I’ll do. Hopefully, by the time I get old, they’ll be some more options in place.

  2. Mrs Jones

    This does actually worry me a bit. My 46 year old husband and I are without children, as is his 51 year old sister who is also single. Their very elderly father died last week, leaving their equally elderly mother alone. She actively wants to go into a nursing home, which is good, but she’s disabled and unable to do all the running around to check them out herself, so it’s fallen on my husband and his sister. In all honesty they don’t really mind doing it, plus they’ve also taken on sorting out their late father’s estate and all that that entails. All of this is a lot of work and it’s left me wondering who the hell’s going to do all this for me when I get to that age? Who’s going to look out for me and ensure I don’t get ripped off or forgotten about? Obviously, had I had kids, there would have been no guarantee that they’d have lifted a finger to help but I like to think I’d have brought them up with some fondness and consideration for me. I don’t know the answer to this one, I really don’t, but I’m trying not to dwell on it because, frankly, it’s a bit scary.

  3. Dorian Gray

    Wonderfully, my parents don’t expect me to look after them. I’ve had that discussion with them and they don’t see it as my responsibility. They see it as solely theirs, that they should plan how they’re going to live out the end of their lives and they should work out the financials. Suits me just fine. I don’t care if my inheritance gets sucked into it as I don’t need any form of inheritance, nor do I see myself as deserving of it (in fact I find it slightly sickening when people talk about how they *deserve* an inheritance because they were a “good child”. I was an awesome child, but that doesn’t give me the right to stop my parents planning or enjoying their retirement.).

    On a second point, I believe it’s up to me to plan for my old age. Whether that requires lots of saving for the possibility of going into a care home, or simply suicide when I realise it’s becoming futile. It’s solely my responsibility. I wouldn’t want to have a kid who felt as though they had some kind of responsibility towards me, who had to put their life and dreams on old to care for their incontinent mother for absolutely no thanks. You know, much the same as having your own kid.

    What was it Clarence Darrow said? “The first half of our lives is ruined by our parents, and the second half by our children.”

  4. tricia

    This doesn’t worry me, but I’ve thought about it a lot. Both of my parents have passed so I don’t have to worry about that for myself, but my husband’s parents are both quite elderly and, while they’re independent now, I don’t think they will be ten years from now. They live a few hours away by plane and I don’t imagine that we’d be moving there if they needed care–they would need to go into out-of-the-home care. My MIL volunteers at a care home herself, one that is mostly used by her ethnic group, and I think she’d be comfortable there.

    For myself, I intend to research homes when I get older, just to know what’s available. I’m still in my thirties so I hope I have a while yet, but waiting lists for good ones are long, and I want to experience these places when I’m not at death’s door. I’m not frightened of aging or dying, although that might change, but the way I see it, I haven’t had to spend thousands of dollars on every new toy, a kid’s wardrobe from birth to whenever it chose to be free of me, and a college education. The money is there.

  5. Xena

    I’d like to add that without the burden of childrearing, we childfree have more time, money and energy to devote to things like exercise and quality nutrition. These can all help a person stay in better physical (and even mental) condition as to maintain independence. Even if this seems like a lofty goal, just the fact of not being relegated to years with alternating nights of hotdogs, mac & cheese and pizza is worth a lot more than you may think. Even just the lack of so much of that stress and getting adequate sleep is worth its weight in gold.

    @ tricia – “I haven’t had to spend thousands of dollars on every new toy, a kid’s wardrobe from birth to whenever it chose to be free of me, and a college education. The money is there.”

    Excellent points. Even if you use this added financial freedom as an excuse to indulge yourself a bit, it would take a lot to outweigh the massive financial outlays involved with raising kids.

    @ Dorian Gray – …”or simply suicide when I realise it’s becoming futile.”

    Thank you for bringing this possibility up. It may sound morbid to some, but this is a valid option. I’ve given this some thought as I’ve had some concerns about the hopefully, distant future: Having kids is an 18 year commitment, minimum. In the event that you become so weak, decrepit, poor, lonely, etc., it is doubtful that you will have (or even want) 18 years left to live anyway. So when you compare shaving what? Maybe a few years off the end of your life versus taking the 18 year (miserable) break from the prime of your life, it’s really a pretty reasonable tradeoff.

  6. Hillari

    One of the best ways I’ve found to shut people up about “who will take care of you when get old?” — especially if it’s coming from someone at church — is to say, “A kid can’t take care of me as well as God can.”

    I don’t expect to retire, and I expect to be active for some time, so that question doesn’t register on my radar much. There is nothing I can do about aging or the inevitable health problems that come with that (my family medical history has already proven that to me). I am being practical in terms of money and how well I take care of my health now. But since no one can predict the future and plan for every mishap that comes along, the best thing to do is a) not spend a lot of time worrying about what you ultimately can’t control, and b) be ready to deal with whatever.

  7. childfreelife

    I don’t think we need tax incentives to save more for retirement. We already have more incentive anyways. We don’t kid ourselves into thinking someone else will do it for us. (you see what I did there ;). Since we aren’t spending money on stuff for kids, too large houses, bigger cars, hospital bills for kids, college, supporting adult children who can’t make it in the world yet, and so on. Also, we make more than our parented counterparts (especially if we are women). We can put plenty away and plan our retirements on our own instead of how many parents end up, with their kids doing it for them and against their wishes.

  8. childfreekey

    On the suicide issue – I’ve always been certain I’d go that route if I ever got Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s or just generally deteriorated too far. My mother and father actually both feel the same way.

  9. nerd

    When you consider that it has been reported that to raise a child in this country from birth to the first year of uni costs over £150000 and that most women who take time off to breed will not be working, earning and saving up whilst they are off looking after the kids I don;t think I need to worry too much.
    I hate the idea people have that they will expect their kids to look after them in their old age – selfish much?! I am only in my mid 20s, but my father died last year of cancer at 52, and knowing that I wouldnt need time out to raise a family etc I was able to quit my job in order to care for him so that he was able to live out his last days and die at home. Had I been worrying about saving for offspring of my own and worrying about my future finances I would not have been able to do this – as was the case with my sister. I did not care for my Dad out of a weird sense of obligation or duty – I did so because we were so close and I loved him – yet I would also do this for a friend if they needed it. to expect and desire to actually make your own child go through that though seems horrible to me.
    As I will not be having kids I will be able to progress my career further, make close lasting friendships and have more income to plough into savings, private pensions, property and a general better standard of living. So when the time comes I will have the money to pay for care myself should I need it.

    1. whatever

      Hi Nerd,

      Though I like what you are saying, I would add not to place too much faith in close lasting friendships. I was always the most caring friend, but once my friends got married, they dropped me like our 20 year friendships meant nothing. Another joined a cult. Another just became an arrogant asshole.

  10. Tabatha

    I haven’t thought about this to much, I’m honestly not all that worried about it. The suicide option has occurred to me though. If my SO was gone and I was in such bad health that I couldn’t care for myself, I think I’d rather just not be here. Also I think its selfish to “expect” your kids to take care of you when your old. They didn’t choose to be born and if people have kids just to have someone to take care of them when they are old, they probably shouldn’t be having kids.

    I know it might sound cold, bit I’ve already told my mom she’s going to a nursing home. I hope my brother don’t mind taking care of her b/c I don’t want to. She’s a pack rat and I hated living with her, there’s no way I would go back to living with her again or taking care of her. I love my mom, but part of the reason i am not having kids is b/c I don’t want someone else dependent on me and to be forced to take care of them.

  11. Mark

    This has kept me up at night a few times. The way the cost of care is increasing, I’m not sure my wife and I will ever be able to save enough. I don’t expect to live to retirement age – men in my family typically don’t – so maybe we can do enough to make sure my wife will be taken care of if the need arises. I hope that she will be well enough to live in a coop community. I know she will do well as long as she is not isolated. It isn’t necessary to have children in order to live a good life in old age.

  12. britgirl

    I think it would be good if parents did not secretly or otherwsie expect their kids to look after them regardless of whether things have changed. However I know from conversations with many that they wouldn’t dream of not looking after their parents in some way shape or form – sense of duty or obligation, call it what you will. By the same token many people do want to remain independent and in their own homes. We have more control over maintaining a healthy lifestyle much longer now – getting regualar exercise, eating well, reducing stress etc are all part of that. However I also think it is up to everyone to plan and star saving as early as possible. If the childfree option was addressed in school (instead of everything being focused on planning to have children) then it would get people thinking and preparing that much earlier.

    Though I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about this… for one thing I am too busy living and enjoying life now – sharing tips and thoughts about one of the biggest bingoes from the childfree perspective is a good thing. Keep the comments coming.

  13. Irishgirl

    Nope. The way I see it, I won’t be able to retire anyway with the awful economic situation, and I see too many old people alone in homes to assume that children would take care of me. Considering everything, the fact that I’ll be financially better off without them is icing on the cake.

    I do feel some responsibility to my parents, but luckily they explicitly told me they don’t expect me to take care of them and that the whole “independence” thing works both ways. A lot of parents seem to expect their kids to leave home and take care of themselves as soon as possible on the grounds that they’re grown up and they have no obligation any more. That independence never seems to extend to when the parents need help. I think it’s because many are bitter at the time and money they had to spend.

    As for the childfree being allowed to save more, that would never be allowed to happen. There would be whines that Teh Mammeez need more rights and that society needs to shift more to help them. It’s an interesting thought process:

    (a) On the one hand, “children will take care of you, unlike the childfree who will die alone in penury, so you must have them.”


    (b) Parents need special treatment, because “raising kids is so hard that without special treatment their careers will suffer and they will be poor, unlike the childfree, who will all be wealthy in old age anyway so it doesn’t matter.” (The idea that they kids will take care of them does not seem to come into this.)

    1. Britgirl Post author

      “As for the childfree being allowed to save more, that would never be allowed to happen. There would be whines that Teh Mammeez need more rights and that society needs to shift more to help them”

      I agree with you there. There seems to be a concerted effort to move money from singles and childfree people to those with kids. The move kids they have the more is shifted to “help” them.

  14. Patster

    I feel the same as Xena in that I could never understand why I would to make the majority of my life miserable having to be responsible for another person in the slight off chance that I may want a visitor when I am in an old persons home. The sums don’t add to me.

    There seems to me to be too much focus and scaremongering of retiring. I don’t intend to fully retire either, I would like to work part time though. I am happy by myself and am not scared of getting old or being alone. Being in an old persons home does not bother me either as someone else is taking care of the housework, maintenance and cooking and all I have too do is sleep/read/listen to music/watch telly/pop down to the shops, if I can. Whats not to like?

    Being ill longterm would be unpleasant but thats not going to be any different whether I have children or not.

    One of the thousands of reasons I did not breed is that there was no way I was going to be solo mother. That situation is completely intolerable for me. I have a good job and a comfortable life, things I would not have been able to achieve if I had children. I would not have been able to raise even one on one income and would not have been able to service a mortgage. At least I have assets, they will take care of me in my old age better than anything else.

  15. FlowerPower

    “Assets can take care of you” sounds a little too harsh, but it’s true, and I have to admit that this a good plan. Apart from this there are other relatives apart from kids that can take care for you: brother, sister, cousin…etc, although i wouldn’t want that. I think i would like to travel as much as I can, and then settle in a small Italian village near the sea.

  16. ChildfreeScot

    One word: carers. These are people who *choose* to help out old and infirm people and are paid to do it. I think it’s rather selfish to expect your children to look after you in your old age.

  17. Amy

    I work for a non-profit company and although my job is mostly administrative, we have a small office with no receptionist and I usually end up being the one to answer the phone. This means I speak to around 50 clients a day, 99% of them elderly people using our services. While some of these people do have nearby family members helping them out, the majority do not, which is why they are in need of our assistance. I am continually amazed by the independence these people display, and I also speak to personal support workers, housekeepers, friends, neighbours, fellow churchgoers, and volunteers – the community of support these clients have built up over the years is so touching.

    Every day after work I am required to do a hard-copy paperwork exchange with one of our suppliers, a senior citizen’s village, meaning that I run in to dozens of residents on my visit. At the village, residents may move in before they require any extra care at all, and can gradually request more and more assistance as their conditions worsen. These people have been responsible and proactive about their future and I admire them for it.

    So no, I don’t worry about who’s going to take care of me in my old age. I’m going to plan ahead.

  18. Blip

    Old age? What old age? As Concrete Blonde once said, “When I’ve had enough, I’ll take my pickup truck and drive away. I’ll take my last ten bucks just as far as it will go.” I will never be able to afford to retire. I’m going to work until I’m seventy or so, and then (as the last survivor of an old family– my remaining siblings will be long gone by then) I’m going to take whatever car I’m driving, unhook my seatbelt, and hit a bridge abutment at a hundred and twenty miles an hour. No big deal. After all, I’m just a dirty human, and my gift to the planet is but a single carbon footprint.

  19. Lurker

    It is difficult to predict future with or without children.

    But do not worry, you have made a good choice! :)

  20. tomcody

    To me the Elephant in the room is the simple fact that even if you have children and even if they are willing to take care of you, assuming you live long enough you will most likely need more intensive care than your children can provide. Both my mom and dad come from families of 5 children and all of those children would have done everything possible to care for my grandparents in old age. However, 3 of my grandparents eventually developed health problems which led to them needing various levels chronic care for the end of their lives. My remaining grandmother is still fiercely independent in her late 80’s and she makes no bones about the fact that when she can no longer be independent her life is no longer of any worth to her.

    As for the money, IMHO the best route is to do what everyone does (or rather should do), which is begin some type of savings/investment strategy as early as possible and stick with it as long as you can as best you can. Will it be enough? who knows, but frankly, there’s not much reason to think that you’re children will be have assets enough to support you/themselves/whatever other obligations they may have. Personally though, I think generally Childfree people are probably on the whole better off as far as retirement goes than those with children. I mean, the primary reason I chose to be childfree is that it makes much more sense with the reasources I have now and am likely to have in the future. Retirement planning is part of that. I’m barely in my mid 20’s and already have a retirement portfolio that is stronger than some people I know twice my age. Is it particularly strong? No, but I’m certainly in better savings shape than most of my friends (many of whom are at their prime child having years now.)

    1. Kat

      “but frankly, there’s not much reason to think that you’re children will be have assets enough to support you/themselves/whatever other obligations they may have.”

      This is so true. I’ve read in a few places that this generation is the first in a long time that can expect a lower standard of living than their parents. That being the case, they’re going to be strapped paying for their student loans, inflated mortgages, and their own children. All the love in the world isn’t any help when your children simply can’t afford to look after you, because they’re too busy looking after themselves.

      I’ve spoken semi seriously with some of my best CF friends about old age. We’re all for pooling our resources to start a co-op on a few acres somewhere, or joining an existing one. Just us old ladies, living off the land in a cheap little country town … To be honest, friends and assets are a much better insurance policy for old age than a child.

  21. Lurker

    The finances is an important issue. But how could this ever be better if you had kids? I think it is a great reason for worries among parents. Then you can really start to talk about being trapped.

  22. Kristine

    Considering the economy, rocky real estate market, disappearing pensions, dwindling 401(k)s, greater numbers of unmarried/CFers, and longer life spans, I see communes coming back into fashion. Little villages where we all pitch in. Who’s with me? : )

  23. Happy Squared

    The way I see it is if you’ve got family members doing stuff for you – running errands, tidying the house, sorting finances out etc…, you’ll end up living a more sendantary life; your muscles will begin to waste away, you won’t need think about how to tackle certain problems; your brain will waste away.

    You can see what I’m getting at here – if you don’t use it, you lose it. You’re better off looking after yourself. Those who remain active in their twilight years, stand a much better chance of avoiding disability and mental health problems before death.

    Here are some stats on the subject.

    40 years from now, technology will be incredibly advanced. We’ll never be alone, we’ll have all our virtual friends beamed holographically into our living rooms for a chat and a cup of tea. There will be ways to entertain ourselves, learn and work that we can’t even imagine right now.

    40 years from now, advances in medicine will have done away with many diseases and disabilities we worry about nowadays – Alz , Parks, memory loss, deafness, muscular distrophy. It’s only 2010 and science is making great strides towards eradicating all of these pesky ailments. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if I look better in 40 years’ time than I do now.

    I also believe in human nature. You don’t see old people being eaten by Alsatians in the street, now do you? When someone is truly in need of a helping hand it’s difficult for us humans to say no.

    I’m with Kristine on the commune idea.

  24. Lurker

    Happy Squared: Interesting comment. But I am not sure if I am just as convinced about the good in human nature as you are. Already in USA one can see patients/people in need being dropped on the street because they cant afford to stay in hospitals. People are hit by cars or attacked by others while the crowd choose to walk by as if nothing extraordinary happened. I think more people are to fall on the outside of society and the fight between us are going to increase along with increased population. Unless we reduce the numbers of people living on the planet or find new technology to make a better us of our resources I am afraid we have only seen nothing of what to expect.

    Commune idea sounds good.

  25. Enoffspring

    Interesting questions, but what is really the topic?

    Are we talking about who will nurse you when you get old, or who will financially support you, – or simply who will care about you, supporting you mentally as in visiting you a couple of times a week and calling you, when you are old and weak?

    And if we’re talking about the financial needs, doesn’t the question highly depend upon where you live? UK, US, Canada or Scandinavia as I do.. ?
    Here, the heavy well-fare state hardly encourages private healthcare initiatives, and breeders are probably the most privileged in the world, receiving considerable benefits. (Guess who pays!) With a very high participation of women in the workforce, it’s hard to find examples of the older generation living with, and being take of, by the younger generation.

    On the other hand the (myth and fear mongered) problem of an aging population suits the government well, as it can justify increased tax, increased benefits for the families with children, higher immigration from 3. world countries, increased retirement age, reduced pensions with a higher private contribution…

  26. Traci

    Having someone to take care of me when I’m old is the least of my concerns – I’d never have a kid simply for that reason. And what’s more, from working in healthcare, I’ve seen that in most cases, the adult children aren’t taking care of their parents, rather the parents are taking care of their grandkids due to deadbeat kids! It’s just ridiculous. If anyone asks me who will take care of me when I’m old, I’ll point them to this article :)
    Adult Children Abandoning Parents at Hotels

  27. Delphine

    There are sometimes VERY good reasons why adult children abandon their parents. I wish with everything that is in me that I never had to even THINK about my parent ever again , in this life or any others if they exist! There are SERIOUS reasons for this and I see no reason why I should repay a calculated and malicious breach of trust over many years by CARING for the one who misused my youth and trust and NOW expects nursing home fees of nearly £ 60 000 a year to drain family funds that could go towards educating younger and very deserving members of the family instead of maintaining a bitter, resentful and throroughy viscious old person who had sought to defraud and manipulate their way through the last 27 years of my life.

  28. og217

    I agree with Kat – for a good retirement you need money and good friends. Kids are useless. So they visit you, mess up your house and leave a couple of times a year. For that you’d ruined 30 years of the prime of your life? Cause lets get real, no one is “done” with kids after 18 years, that’s when a huge billing period of college, grad school, “finding themselves” and weddings begins! I don’t really know who it is that can raise a child to adulthood for $150 or $250 K. Housing, education, tutors, sports equipment, i-whatevers, and designer jeans that every stupid 8-year-old now demands are sure to add up to way more. And you know what, even $250K invested over decades will yield a nice, close to a million dollar retirement. That sounds better than a miserable life and then guilt trips on the kids when I’m old – help me, I raised you, I ruined my life for you, I need you, I bla bla bla. Please. I’ll be sailing in my yacht, which I will be able to afford while other pople are living off social security.

  29. judy

    OG217, you took the words right out of MY mouth. My grand kids are so rude, lazy, they could care LESS about anything or person around them. I did not raise my daughter this way but HIS side of the family are alcoholics, ex cons, or going to jail, dui’s. My daughter has 4 kids, she has stated numerous times “I would like to send the kids up for a day, or two, I want them to get to know their grandparents”…My daughter really must think I am stupid…translation meaning “I need a daily babysitter because I wished I did not have 4 kids, can’t stand dealing with them anymore”. As she has put it “I f…ing hate my kids, they have ruined my life, nobody wants to babysit them” Gee I wonder why? When they did use to visit, the first thing they wanted to do is go up town and me hand them all they money they want to buy things, their mother and father has taught them well. When they come in our house, there is NO “Hello” “Goodbye” no “Thank Yous” Awful. I do not have family, when I am old and gray, somebody will do something for me, unless I just sit in a chair and dies somewhere. Oh well.

  30. jennyjen

    MY MUM is one of those women who had us to ensure her care in her old age. By the time we were born her marraige was already veering dangerously off course. She had my brother and I to be her companions as she was lonely with my Dad, and because she didn’t really like working, and she was afraid that after her marraige crumbled who was going to help her out financially later?

    She later divorced, remarried and made a little money on property investments with her new husband…and they promptly blew it on a big Mc House in a development that has no resale value. I asked her, gently…shouldn’t you be thinking about saving your money and looking down the line? Maybe looking at a smaller house or condo so you don’t have to spend every cent you just made? Her reply was (breezily, I might add) “Oh, that’s what you have kids for, so you don’t have to worry about that sort of thing! ‘ I was agog. And aghast. And angry.

    My brother and I are furious about this…but also sort of trapped…what are we going to do, let her live in a cardboard box when she is 80? Of course we will help her, but man do we resent the hell out of it. Also, she married an older man who never had children, but he never saved money either…so now I have a Mum and TWO Dads that we will have to help support. My inlaws thank god have already sorted themselves out down to living wills and advanced elderly care options. Smart. I love them for that.

    To my way of thinking, I would rather struggle on my own, then have my resentful, bitter adult (imaginary) child look at me as a burden and obligation. Better to be alone or pay someone to do it…and yes, my husband and I are in our 30’s and are already looking into assisted living and retirement packages to get an idea of how much we are in for. I think we will be OK.

    I read a blinding statement the other day in some article on line or another about how this elderly childfree guy said that the beauty of not having kids is that when you are old you can afford to live in a really nice retirement community, and that EVERY single person or couple on his patch never had kids… if they had they couldn’t have afforded to live there. So he wasn’t lonely, even though sadly his spouse had passed away a few years previously, because all of the people around him didn’t have kids or grandchildren either…so everyone still had a lot in common.

    If I am in my 30’s now, and crossed fingers I live to retirement and senior age, with the way the numbers are going there are going to be MANY MANY people who opted to be childfree. We will not be alone…we will have each other for companionship, and hopefully have saved enough to be comfortable in old age. I think people worry about being the ONLY one not to have kids…and so they capitulate and do it…but my point is by the time I am old half of my peers with probably be childfree too.

  31. Scott

    I don’t know if anyone has mentioned this yet, but I would point out that in today’s society there is a good chance that when you’re older you’ll be taking care of your grandchildren or great grandchildren instead of them taking care of you. It would be foolish to assume that your children and grandchildren will cease to burden you, become independent contributors to society, and have the resources or ability to take care of you when you’re older. Look around at all of the grandparents out there who are raising their grandchildren as their own children. Let’s think about that as a possible retirement scenario.

    We could just as easily ask, “whose diapers are we going to change when we retire?”

    I know elderly people in their 80’s who are still cleaning up the messes of their 60 year old children. Let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that it’s “only 18 years and then you’re free.”

  32. Michelle

    This might be a bit morbid for some, but I’ve talked to enough people living in nursing homes to find it sensible. I plan on preparing some foolproof concoction, probably a plant-based poision, and make myself a check-out pill. When I’ve had my fill of life, or if the only future option is a nursing home’s secure wing, I’ll take it.

    The point of being childfree is having complete control over your life. Children control you when they’re babies by being completely dependant on you, they control you when they’re in their teens and twenties by being emotionally and financially demanding, and they control you when you when you’re in your final years by literally taking complete control of your life.

    I don’t see the problem with checking out when you’ve finished using your good years. No one wants to be a helpless burden. And it takes the pressure off of wondering what will happen to you when you can no longer take care of yourself.

  33. jennyjen

    My husband and I are nearing our 40’s, and when you look at the numbers 43% or Gen-Xers like we are are not having kids. This number will of course go down as this generatin ages and has children later…but that is still a VERY large number.

    When my husband and I are old enough to worry about assited living, about 30% or more of the population alive will have not had children.

    This (in my mind) translates to a different system of dealing with the aged, as western countries will no longer be able to depend on grown kids taking care of the elderly…a third of the population will have had to figure something else out. This means more care options later in life for the childfree…it is just too high of a number to ignore.

    I am already seeing “later life plans” and retirement strategies that are specifically for elders that can not depend on relatives to care for them on the internet. The childfree are legion, there are and will be more total packages you can invest in that will do things like: funeral planning, retirement homes, transport, medical extras, power of attorney, etc. You just have to have the money to pay for one company to take charge of these things…and with the income saved by not having kids you will be able to.

    Growing old is scary…but I think putting all of your eggs in one basket and depending on your kids to pay for you in old age is frankly terrifying. There is nothng legal that says they have to…it is totally on a whim. I feel MUCH safer taking my old age plans into my own hands and preparing all of that stuff myself anyways.

    When I get the bingo “who will take care of you when you are old?!” I just say: “My investment portfolio and my lawyer.” And if feeling especially cornered I mention how they say they can not get their 20-something kids to move out, get a job or pick up their dirty underwear…and this makes them think that these people they raised will make the most altruistic decisions for them when they are seniors?

    Better to sort that stuff out for yourself…all it needs is a little forthought!

  34. rach

    hi my situation is unique…because my parents have had to provide for my lifelong care. i am in my 20’s, we presume this to be my final years of life because i was born with a horrible and disabling genetic condition. i can walk around the house and a little bit outside but that is about all i can do. so of course i continue to live at home and will never be independant. potential parents need to consider, before they procreate. the possibility of having severely disabled children who can never care for themselves. my parents are old and tired but still have to care for me in every way and that will only intensify now in my last years as my body fades. thus far i have helped with chores but i am not sure how much longer i will be able to do that. this is a devestating situation for me and for my family. i am just trying to warn people…if you assume that your child will be independant at 18 and then you can go on with your life however you wish, you may be greatly mistaken. my parents assumed they would have perfect, happy, healthy children. but instead they will have to act as my caretakers and ultimatly they will bury me. if my parents had stayed childfree it would have been better for them and for me.

  35. Laelia

    I am not worried about later years for many reasons. 1. As Hillari mentioned, God can take better care of me than any child. I am 27 and have already experienced being poor, hungry, alone and some health issues but God has provided food, help and friends in every circumstance so i know he will continue to look after me.

    2. We are not guaranteed to live any specific length of time. My grandparents all lived to ripe old ages and my eighty-two year old grandma still mows her acre lawn and chases pesky deer! Genetics say i could be the same, but who’s to say i wont die from some accident next week or some fatal disease in 15 years?
    So, i choose to be childfree, make wise decisions for my future in case, and then trust God.

    3. No one can guarantee that their children will either want to, or be able to take care of you when you get old. Besides, they could also die before you or have need of care more than you as the above person so candidly shared.

    4. Since i believe all life is precious no matter the age or state, i consider that for as long ah i am alive there is purpose whether i am decrepit or not. Thus, the decision not to have kids of my own was to insure i could be freed up to care for the children, adults or old people already here. I want to be able to give money and time to impove the planet and quality of life for the people now and in the future. So that is more important to me than worrying about having kids just to take care of me in my old age. That is a bad reason to have them anyway. Bringing life into this world deserves more thought than that.

    5. And lastly, i bring this thesis to a close (haha) saying that i LOVE Hillari’ and KKristine’s idea about joining a co-op or commune in my old age. Count me in for that!

  36. Katy

    A childfree couple, if still married in their elderly years, is likely to prosper. However, a childfree, single woman at age 60 will far more likely be living in poverty – with no spouse or adult kids to help her out.

  37. Pingback: The Future… | How do we protect ourselves now to grow older alone?

  38. Janet

    There are no laws stating an adult child has to look after a parent. Just because one has a child or children is no comfort in old age.

  39. Dee Kay

    I have really appreciated reading all the posts in this thread. I think one of the reasons that I am choosing to be childfree is that I helped to care for my mother when she became severely disabled in her early 60s. Her disability was a shock to us all but what was shocking to me was that of all her six children, there were just two of us in the end who were living with her at home giving her round-the-clock care. Everyone else ran for the hills (with respect to physical caretaking – though they did help in other ways, like with insurance and paperwork).

    One thing I learned from that experience is that you *must* hire people to provide intensive care if you are elderly and/or severely disabled. This is because even when your children are willing and able to help care for you, the experience is so emotionally and psychologically fraught that everyone is in tears or on the verge of a breakdown nearly all the time. It pained my mother tremendously, really broke her heart, to watch and experience her children having to do everything for her, including see to her most basic bodily functions, feed her, etc. And needless to say it broke my heart as well. It is no good for either the cared-for or the caretaker to have there be so much emotional agony involved with the business of washing, feeding, dressing someone every day, etc.

    My mother did hire round-the-clock caretakers eventually and although I don’t think she hired the best people she could have (she seemed to rely too much on my brother’s recommendations, the less said about that the better), they did an adequate job and I noticed that the entire situation was just nowhere near as intense when it was a *job* being done. Caretaking can be done efficiently and professionally, without agony or heartbreak involved for either party. It can be more like, “Bring my wheelchair here,” “Put me in that blouse today,” instead of “Oh my poor child I am so sorry you have to do these things for me!” Of course you hope that the caretaker also has some compassion and isn’t too cold towards their charge, but you need to just have that goal in mind when you hire people.

    Eventually my parents moved to the country where they were born where labor is extremely inexpensive and my mother was able to have an entire team of caretakers until she died.

    I don’t intend to leave the U.S. when I’m older but if I am in a situation where I am seriously disabled and for some reason decide not to end my own life, then I will definitely hire people, have a checklist in mind of what I think make for good caretakers, and be extremely grateful that I don’t have to go through the wretched, emotionally taxing process of requiring any family members to help me.

  40. Cybersix

    Loved all Posts and especially Dee Kay´s.
    I also would like to point out two things I observed. People who can rely on others to to things for them let themselves go in ways independent people who have to rely on themselves just don´t.
    If you know there will noone there to help you out, you take care of things so that your life does not fall apart that easily. I observe this every mother´s day, when restaurants are filled with “devoted” children taking old mom out to lunch. The women with large families are always more brittle and disabled than the women that have one child, and these women are significantly less independent than the women who have no child at all… who went out for luch with their friends.
    The other thing is a little grim, but nonetheless true. If you don´t have someone to take care of you when you can´t take care of yourself anymore, you´ll die. Period.
    This fantasies of being old, disabled, incapable of taking care of oneself and ALIVE are fantasies of childed people, because they know it is a real possibility to be a living vegetable and still be fed, dressed, have their diapers changed and all that.
    To be a realist, if you do not have children you either will be old, fit and independent or you will be dead. The possibility of being in a state where you require someone to take care of you doesn´t really exist as a long period problem.

  41. Shocked

    I have to say I’m a little shocked at the general consensus here. Not criticising you all just a bit saddened. Most people don’t have kids because they need care in old age, they have them because they wanted the joy of being parents. To raise and watch their kids grow and just be a family.

    I will never have kids but not through lack of trying. (8 IVF cycles). And as a single 47 yo that’s it. I’m on my own.
    I will happily look after my parents when they need it. They have always been lovingly there for me and i will make sure their final years are dealt with love care respect and someone they can trust.

    There are a lot of comments here about looking after yourself which I do agreed with. But what if you have a major stroke and there is no one to make important decisions for you?
    What then? You’re in hospital unable to communicate. Your house and belongings perhaps pets all sitting unattended to. You can’t plan for everything.

    1. deegee

      A few years ago, as part of setting up a will I also set up a Health Care Proxy which designated primary and secondary individuals who would make health care decisions as well as be authorized to receive health care information should I not be able to do so. The people I authorized are not my children because I don’t have any. Anyone can set up a HCP.

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