Working with older people has made me realise that I need not fear growing old without children

By Nina Steele 

For over 7 years, I have had the privilege of working with older people and to say that it has been an eye opener will be an understatement. Yes many of us have elderly parents and grandparents but coming into contact with thousands of older people both on the phone and face to face has allowed me to witness first-hand the many aspects of being old that I would never have experienced, had I not been working for an old people’s charity. To everyone without children dreading getting old because they have been led to believe that those without children inevitably end up lonely, I say don’t worry. Don’t worry because like many assumptions this one too is far from the truth. Anyone can end up lonely in old age, children or no children.

In truth, you are more likely to end up lonely in old age if you are housebound due to poor health or if you yourself do not make some effort to go out and socialise. Many charities for older people have day centres where people can go and socialise, take part in activities and enjoy hot meals. Yes it is true that lack of funding has meant many day centres have had to close, however, many of those still open do provide transport to and from the centres, making it possible for people living at a bit of a distance to still enjoy a social life. These centres are a lifeline and the majority of the people who attend them have children. No one can rely entirely on their children to provide them with a social life in old age and so making provisions for these things is paramount.

I cannot praise charities enough for the work they do. They have become a sort of surrogate families for many older people today. Many of these charities provide help for pretty much every aspects of life. From providing a handyman to cut the grass or carry out small jobs around the home to helping with meals, shopping, paying bills along with providing advice for anything including claiming some of the many benefits that are available to older people. The holistic nature of the service they provide is helping many older people live with dignity children or no children. In fact, many of the children are very grateful to these charities because they can entrust them to be there for their parents, while they get on with their own lives. As noted previously, Poor health is more likely to contribute to social isolation than anything else. Even so, many charities do have befriending services that cater for anyone in these situations, both face to face and over the phone. It falls on local councils to identify these older people and ensure that they get some sort of social interaction other than watching TV. If you are fortunate enough to be healthy in your old age, chances are that you will have plenty to do and so my advice is to start making plans now; charities are one of many alternatives available to you. There are many groups you can join or even better, why not set one up yourself? Just do a search on the Internet or find out through your local library. There are walking groups, discussion groups, groups that meet for outings to name but these few. Whatever you are into, chances are that there will be a group that you will be able to join. The opportunities are there and it is entirely up to us to take advantage of them.

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