In this Huffington Post piece, “Who Will Care for Us – the Aging, Childless and Single Population?” aging advocate Carol Marak writes, “Since adult children are the lifeblood of elder care, and I don’t have a child, it’s a concern for me.” Her comment brought to mind the pronatalist assumption I discuss in The Baby Matrix: “My children will be there for me when I am old.” How true is it?
The truth is…
Just because you have children does not mean they are going to take care of you when you are old. Given today’s realities, when it comes to adult children taking care of their elderly parents, in the book I ask and discuss these questions: Is it wise to bank on it? Is it fair to expect it?
I challenge pronatalist thinking when it come to our elder years, and lay out a mindset that welcomes adult children support, but does not blindly assume it will be there. I propose living with this mindset when it comes our later years:
Finding my elderhood support structure is my responsibility.
- Planning for when we are old way before we get there.
- Making long term financial goals, and sticking to them.
- Figuring out how we want to set up our living situation in their elder years, such as living in our own home, a kind of senior community, or even sharing a house with close friend(s).
- Envisioning and working to build a support network when we are old, such as relationships with younger family members like nieces and nephews, dear friends, younger people in our lives, and ties to our religious community.
Building a support network can happen in many ways. A new company I recently stumbled upon called Stitch provides a new and great way; it works to connect and “help mature adults find many different types of companionship they need.” Even if people have family as part of their support circle (and certainly if they do not) having strong companionships makes for an even strong support network.
In addition to taking care of business in our later years with things like estate planning, wills, trusts, advance healthcare directives, and power of attorney, as elders, having a strong relationship and support network makes all the difference in our final phase of life, which as Dr. Bill Thomas, has said, should be valued for what it can be—”rich…deep…and meaningful.”
Getting beyond old pronatalist thinking about our later years means turning the focus of expectations away from others and on to ourselves. Doing so sheds the idea that blood relatives will automatically be there, places value on developing one’s support structure, and advocates support without expectations about that support.
Want to read the entire chapter, The Elderhood Assumption, in The Baby Matrix?
Read it for free: Here!