There are currently over 1 million people over 65 in the UK who have never been parents, this will rise to 2 million by 2030. 4 million people over the age of 50 are not parents.
Policy, planning and practice on ageing in the UK is predicated on there being family members especially adult children around to offer help and support. The assumption that an older person will have someone to help with every day tasks and manage the bureaucracy of care is deeply embeded. However the postwar demographic shift means that not only are fewer people having children, but families in general are smaller and there is not a plethora of nieces and nephews to fill the gap either. Not only that but half of all people over 75 live alone and more people than ever are getting divorced in later life or entering it never having been married/with a partner.
As well as this, changing lifestyles mean that more people are estranged from their children, or that there children may live very far from them. Some people may have children that have predeceased them or for whom they still have to provide significant care.
For the care systems and services in the UK already struggling with austerity, this huge change in family and in particular the ability of family to provide support and fill the care gap left as the state retreats represents a massive challenge