What Is It Like to Grow Old and Be Childless?

Updated on November 7, 2017
Dreamworker profile image

Dreamworker believes that every human being deserves the right to be able to live to his or her full potential.

While it is common for people to think that having a child will give them someone to care for and comfort them in their old age, the truth is that this may or may not be the case depending on a variety of circumstances.

  • Sometimes children die before their parents pass away.
  • Other times parents and children become estranged.
  • Many times adult children simply don’t want to be bothered dealing with their parent’s issues.

Of course, nobody can see into the future, so there’s really no way to know what will happen down the road of life.

This is why it is foolish for people to assume that people who choose to remain childless (or who end up that way due to happenstance) somehow will suffer more in their golden years than those who give birth.

Being old and not having children is not always a bad thing!
Being old and not having children is not always a bad thing! | Source

Relationships Make a Difference

What few realize is that many childless couples build relationships within their families or with close friends that give them many of the joys that raising children bring while at the same time releasing them from the responsibilities of doing so.

If well nurtured, these ties grow over the years so that when the childless reach old age, they may well get many of the comforts they would have if they, indeed, did have their own children.

Appreciative young adults visit with them, help them with chores and invite them to important events because they consider them to be family. Some even refer to them as “aunt” or “uncle”.

Careers Matter, Too

Another way that childless adults build relationships with children can be through the type of work they do.

Teachers, for example, are always surrounded by youngsters, many of whom later remember the help those teachers gave them.

I even had a former student contact me ten years after I retired to tell me that she had given birth to a female child and had named her after me!

People who work with young children sometimes retain lifelong relationships with them.
People who work with young children sometimes retain lifelong relationships with them. | Source

Child Related Activities Also Build Relationships

This type of relationship can also be built by anybody who works with children on any type of level.

People such as coaches, tutors, boy scout leaders and others who choose to do things to help the young find that some show their appreciation by staying in touch and “being there” if need be.

What about Other Situations

The truth is that not everybody likes children or wants to spend their lives nurturing them. Some simply are unable to have them.

Thus, there are many who don’t become involved in long term relationships with other people’s kids.

This may sound like a horrible way to live, but for many it is heaven.

The Benefits

Childless couples have much more freedom to enjoy their time and have more money with which to do it.

They are not burdened with many of the problems that come with having children, especially as kids reach their teens.

They don’t have to worry about their offspring

  • getting pregnant out of wedlock,
  • turning to a life of crime or
  • becoming involved in drugs.

They can spend their lives dealing with their own issues and, because of this, have much less stress that couples with children.

They build a lifestyle for themselves that benefits them into old age, so they do not feel that they have missed much.

Growing old without children can create a happy life for some people.
Growing old without children can create a happy life for some people. | Source

The Downside

There is no question that childless couples generally miss out on many of the good times that bring great joy to parents such as birthday parties, graduations, weddings and the like.

Many also spend more time being lonely, especially as they age, unless they have a strong social support system (which some do, and others do not).

They have to depend on friends and relatives if they need help, and that help is not always forthcoming.

As a result, they need to come up with ways to protect themselves.

Old Age without Kids

Even under the best of circumstances, growing old is a scary proposition.

It can be more so without children in the picture, but even many seniors who have given birth may not have children who are attentive, live close by or are willing and able to help them.

Thus, as the years pass, the playing field becomes more even.

Those who do best in their later years do better if they have planned well and thus are able to

  • have more than enough money to live on,
  • reside in a senior friendly community that is located close to shopping, entertainment and medical care and
  • belong to a group of other seniors who can provide a certain level of support if needed.

These things are especially important if one of the spouses passes away and the other is left to fend for himself.

Those who have not made advance arrangements can find that life isn’t nearly as good for them because they will be

  • worried about money,
  • may not feel safe in their homes and
  • may feel isolated.

However, these things would be true whether or not people had raised families.

So it is not the lack of children that can make old age difficult, but rather the lack of good planning coupled with a bit of good luck.

What Happens When Health Declines

The longer people live, the more likely it is that their health will decline. Having children will not erase this fact.

People with adult children may or may not be able to count on them for certain levels of help, but when things get serious, nothing anybody can do will eliminate the problem or make it better, other than to provide some emotional support.

Older childless people with health problems learn to use the things that are available to them such as renting assisted living apartments, having groceries delivered, using Uber or similar services for transportation and employing part-time housekeepers in order to function.

Ironically, because they did not have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars raising a family, many are able to afford these things.

They can get emotional support from friends, neighbors and relatives if needed, and sometimes it’s better than what they would have gotten from their kids!

I once saw a man who lay dying in a hospital bed while his adult children, who were right beside him, argued about his will.

This is not an unusual event if children think there’s any chance that they might get some money after a parent passes on.

For sure, this is one horror that could never happen to someone who remained childless!

Listen to the Voice of Experience

People think that doing certain things in life offers them guarantees, but this is not true.

Life takes you on unexpected journeys, so the best you can do is to protect yourself as best you can.

I am old. I chose not to have children and had surgery to make sure that I didn’t.

I have never been sorry. My life has been rich with travel and adventure and, despite health problems, it is still wonderful today.

For me, growing old without children has been a blessing because it gave me choices I never could have had otherwise.

It also gave me the chance to spend the best years of my life with a man I dearly love.

It could have turned out differently, but it did not.

You need not feel sorry for me or anybody else who passed this way childless. As the video shows, much in life depends on your attitudes about life.

The woman in it did have children, but I believe that even if she did not, her inspirational attitude would have helped her to find a way to live a good life.

This is because you always have choices. You can sit around and feel sorry for yourself if you end up alone, or you can take positive action that helps you to be happy.

The woman in the video obviously has chosen that path, and so have I.

Do You think being old and not having children would create problems for you?

See results

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

  • What if I regret growing old and being childless and there is no way back?

    That is always a possibility. However, if you do have regrets you can always adopt or foster a child. There are no guarantees in life.

© 2017 Sondra Rochelle

Comments

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  • Dreamworker profile imageAUTHOR

    Sondra Rochelle 

    17 hours ago from USA

    Well said. Thank you for posting this. I'm sure many readers will benefit from your insights.

  • profile image

    Bububerry 

    23 hours ago

    My husband and I are childless, and do not want any children either. Reasons being me having auto-immune conditions that make my day to day life difficult. And another reason being my husband is an artist (painter) and loves the life we have with free time and cats, friends and family. I had a hard time myself for several years and pretty much pushed the decision through, but had several early miscarriages. tests showed I have a lot of immune issues working against a healthy pregnancy. I had to mourn this but my husband always said he is happy with the life we have. I never have to deal with him having second thoughts.

    Speaking as a childless couple, I think it makes a difference what your specific personality is and what your life looks like to start with. We both have fulfilling creative jobs and feel we can put a lot of our sense of ‘meaning’ into that. I would say one clear advantage of being childfree - as I see it - is the quality of your romantic relationship with each other. We have been together for 12 years now and are as devoted and happy together as ever. We can travel individually for work and always have the trust basis to do things apart as well as together, which keeps things fresh for us. My sibling and most of my friends have kids, who all seem besotted with us and love coming round to our house for long sleep overs. We have the energy and the drive to really see them with fresh eyes, and to give them 100^% attention, and maybe we are also more relaxed than the parents, in some ways. But mostly everyone of my friends and their friends (and the friends of my siblings) have either divorced when the children were still very small, or are in the process of divorcing, with only two being sincerely in a good relationship still. Many have started dating other single parents and merged their respectable kids together into new family units. None have it easy, as there are many many difficulties along that road. From spiteful exes to unwilling children to the sheer amount of stress and time it takes to ferry kids between the two biological parents and to deal with everyones wants and needs. It puts a strain on relationships often. Especially in these times, children are seen and treated often as very precious precarious cargo and parents tend to be overprotected and putting their children on first place. Growing up myself, my parents were a strong unit and we all knew that mum came first for my dad. And he was the most amazing father imaginable to us. Yet, they were there first and we came along the way, that was very clear to everyone. (But still, my parents divorced after 14 years).

    So I’d say that IF you have a fulfilling relationship and work or talents or something along those lines that give you pleasure and fulfillment, it is not that bad to be childfree. On the other hand, if you and your partner feel aimlessly floating and without any purpose without kids to focus on and raise, then it can be a very painful situation to not have any.

  • Dreamworker profile imageAUTHOR

    Sondra Rochelle 

    14 months ago from USA

    I agree totally.

  • CatherineGiordano profile image

    Catherine Giordano 

    14 months ago from Orlando Florida

    I didn't become a mother until the age of 49. So I can attest to the drawbacks and advantages of childlessness and parenthood. And there are plenty of both for either state. I say, "To each his own."

  • Dreamworker profile imageAUTHOR

    Sondra Rochelle 

    14 months ago from USA

    Thank you. Since I fall into the category I wrote about, this was written from experience. Of course, each person's situation is different, but I do feel that those who are proactive and make it a point to have a good quality of life do well in their older ages, regardless of whether they have kids or not. If you didn't watch the video, you should. This lady is a perfect example of what I just said...and by the way, I'm older than she is!

  • louise-barraco profile image

    Louise Barraco 

    14 months ago from Ontario

    This is a good hub for anyone whether they have kids are thinking about it or don’t have them at all You make some good points

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