There are so many people in society struggling at present and one such group are those older people who have no children. This was evidenced in a story reported locally to me. The police helped an elderly man struggling with a shopping trolley. The old man was very sick with Covid-19 but had no food at home, no children to support him and no access to the internet. Informal caring and psychological support of older people is frequently left to family members and I am left thinking, how many older people would benefit from the help of counsellors, psychotherapists and other mental health professionals, but they simply don’t know how to find us.
Over 1.65 million people in the UK over the age of 65 have no children and this will double by 2030. Only 10% of people choose not have children, 10% are unable to have them and the remainder are alone because their children have died young, live abroad or are estranged. People growing old without children don’t describe themselves as AWOC (ageing without children), perhaps because their needs have never been formalised within policies, NICE guidelines, IAPT referrals or as a presenting issue. People generally are still learning the benefits of Counselling, those older and those without children in particular. Hopefully, one of the good things which will come from this Pandemic will be greater consideration of the needs of this hidden demographic.
Many people are understandably upset because they cannot reach their family member who maybe in a Care Home or hospital. People older and without children are 25% more likely to enter residential care. During this current crisis, people AWOC asked do you want to be resuscitated if you are ill ? But what if have no family to discuss it with. Counsellors and psychotherapists offer an opportunity to feel connected in a way other Relationships, or the absence of them, do not. The UK encourages positive ageing and there are many support organisations however none of them offer a service which specifically addresses the needs of AWOCs…perhaps there’s an insurance company out there which might enable those AWOC to purchase counselling in advance of when it is more difficult for them to access it, but their need for it is greater ? Something like an EAP ? Research released by Independent Age on 27th April shows people ageing without children have unmet needs. Can Counsellors and Psychotherapists help highlight and assist this issue ?