ONE in five people over 50 have no children, prompting a new campaign to highlight the social issues surrounding growing old alone.

Ageing Without Children (AWOC) was founded by Kirsty Woodward and published a report this week prompting the government to take notice of this ticking timebomb. It estimates that by 2030, there will be two million people aged over 65 without children.

Kirsty said: "More and more people are entering their later life without adult children. Not just because they have never been parents but also because they are estranged from their children, their children predeceased them or because their children are simply unable to play any part in their life, for example by living in another country.

"However, services still work on the basis that there will be family to step in, as does Government policy. In 2017, for the first time, there will be more older people needing care than there is a family to provide it. Society has changed dramatically and thinking on ageing must shift too and that includes understanding that 20 per cent of older people do not have children to offer help or support."

There are four branch organisations of AWOC in the UK, including one in York, run by Sue Lister.

Sue is 71 and lives with her partner Ann, aged 75. Ann has children and grandchildren in Canada, and Sue, through choice, is childless.

The York group has around 30 members and holds monthly meetings at the Cross Keys pub in Goodramgate. The next one will take place on Wednesday, June 8 from 5.30-7pm and will be attended by solicitors from Harrowells to discuss legal issues around ageing alone.

Sue said: "They will look at issues such as power of attorney and what you can do with your money and your house if you have to go into a care home - all the legal stuff children might have been able to help you with."

In the meantime, Sue is conducting a survey among older people in York around the issue of ageing without children.

She is keen for people in that situation to fill it out by the deadline on June 1. It asks a few simple questions such as age, gender, postcode, where you would look for support. You can find the survey online at and return it by email to If you are unable to access a computer, Sue can fill out the form for you by telephoning her on 01904 488870.

She would like an organisation such as the Joseph Rowntree Foundation to pick up the mantle and carry out more thorough research in this area.

The work of AWOC has won support from Baroness Sally Greengross, a champion of causes relating to ageing. She said: "The area of ageing without children has been neglected for far too long. The report brings to our attention some of the underlying issues behind the lives of older people who do not have children. This includes, for example, false assumptions made about them, ageism, language and other forms of discrimination, including racial discrimination and discrimination against LGBT people. I see this as a vibrant discussion and debate on this area."

Sue says some of the York members have experienced verbal abuse over their childlessness. "One woman said she was called a selfish cow for not having children."

Sue said the idea of the nuclear family was long gone and it was time to wake up to the reality. "Government is using the notion of family to tell us we will be alright, but that is not true. It's a financial and political issue.

"This survey will be the tip of the iceberg. We want to make it clear to York council and anybody involved in making decisions about older people that there are going to be millions of people who will be ageing without children. If services are being cut and you are ageing without children, where are you going to look for support?"

Sue hopes by setting up an AWOC group in York, members will become friends and be able to support one another in times of need.

"We need these peer-support groups in every town and village. People in rural communities can feel especially cut off. We need to work with other organisations for the elderly to achieve this."

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