A piece in yesterday’s (Tuesday’s) Times:
Baby boomer Britons are much more likely to depend on paid carers than on family members when they reach old age because of a large rise in childless couples, a report says.
Women born in 1965, who are now 55, are twice as likely to have remained childless as the generation of women born at the end of the Second World War who are in their mid-70s.
Adult children are the most common providers of informal care at home — other than spouses — with almost a third of people 85 and older receiving regular care from their offspring.
The Office for National Statistics said that in 30 years’ time tens of thousands of people from the baby boomer generation will require care but will not have immediate family members to call on, making them much more likely to depend on paid carers for tasks such as dressing, washing, using the lavatory and preparing meals or to move into residential care. More will have care needs that will not be met.
Over that period the number of childless women in their 80s will treble in England and Wales, from 23,000 last year to 66,313, it projected.
The actual number of women without children will be even higher because the projections are based on data from births plus estimates for numbers of stepchildren and adopted children but not all children survive until their parents reach old age.
Among those now in their 80s, when people are most likely to need care, 31 per cent receive care from one or more of their children, 16 per cent are looked after by a wider network of family members or friends and 8 per cent are cared for by their spouse or partner. Among those aged 65 and older who have children, only 7 per cent receive formal care, such as visits from a paid carer, while 21 per cent have informal unpaid care. For people in the same age group who do not have children the proportion who receive formal care rises to 12 per cent, with 16 per cent having some form of informal care.
Other research has suggested that reasons for the rise in the number of couples without children among the baby boomer generation include easy access to contraception, changes in social attitudes towards voluntary childlessness, more women entering higher education and pursuing careers and some women postponing having children until it was too late to conceive.
Catherine Foot, director of evidence at the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “Without action to fix our social care system, we risk sleepwalking into a crisis. We urgently need to find a fair and sustainable solution to ensure no one has to go without the care they need.
“But we also need to do more to prevent people needing care in the first place. This means making sure our homes keep us safe and independent for longer, and that people are supported to stay active.”
Nina Hemmings, a researcher at the Nuffield Trust, said: “Action to meet this inevitable future demand must come now. We urgently need to see a fair, sustainable funding system which spreads the risks of catastrophic costs later in life and ensures that nobody is left in the lurch, including those without children or family support, when it comes to accessing the care they need.”
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