Kiran Aldridge and her friends are in their 40 s and none of them have infants. They have decided to buy a house together, where they can pool resources, skills and a yoga educator and never be lonely
I have a group of female friends and we are all in our early 40 s. None of us have infants. We have known one another for what seems to be an infinity; we went to college together, and then visited one another at different universities and remained good friends. I clearly find a timeline of our conversations throughout the years: how we stayed up all night studying for quizs fuelled by copious sums of Red Bull and Hula Hoops; how we compared notes of the first time we dabbled with drugs at university; we talked of the hedonistic parties we attended and the hearts crushed by an array of unsuitable partners. These days, as well as discussing the healing powers of yoga and green tea, a new topic of conversation has entered our midst like a brick through the now-opaque window of our youth: who will look after us in our old age?
I feel we have reached an age where this question can no longer be swatted like an riling fly. It needs to be answered, or at the least wrapped up and packaged like an unwanted gift. It is postulated that, if you have infants, getting help in your older years is easy. But what if you don’t have infants to help you chug along when life becomes tough? Who will look after you then?
There are myriad reasons why none of us had infants; some attained conscious decisions not to, others did not. Regardless of reasons, we are all in the same position of facing what will certainly be the most challenging periods of our lives, in terms of physical abilities, without children. This constructs me feel a little flustered. I told a friend who has three children. I got an unexpected response:” You don’t have kids so they could help you in your old age !” To do so would be a selfish motivating, she added. I asked her why she had children.” I wanted to have my own family ,” she said. I asked her why, and she told:” I wanted to be surrounded by love .” I questioned whether her own motivation to have children was an altruistic one.
We want infants to love, to fill our lives, to give us purpose, to carry on the family name, and to satisfy our own maternal desire to nurture and to love. The decision is never altruistic. Essentially, we are all asking for the same thing: to be loved.
In India, where my roots lie, household does mean looking after one another, especially in old age. Living in an extended family with an elder is the norm. As a rebellious teen and as a woman in her 20 s, I had a very bleak view of this; there seemed to be no room for individuality in a family that worked as a nucleus.( This was my view when I would stroll in at 6am after clubbing trying not to wake anyone ).
As I get older, I understand the value of living in a family that has several generations appearing out for each other. As a younger person, the emphasis is on the individual, but when you get older, I believe the focus changes to your connection with others.
My grandmother lives in a house that has two generations under the same roof. She is in her late 80 s and doesn’t worry about whether she can paying off heating bill or not, there is always home-cooked food and a plethora of visitors; loneliness is an alien concept. More importantly, as her ageing body weakens and is prone to falling, there is always somebody to picking her up. My granny, who doesn’t speak English, who hasn’t visited any country other than England, whose world is microscopic compared with mine, will most certainly have a more comfortable old age than the one I consider myself facing.
My friends and I have come up with alternative solutions route to live out our golden years. When the time comes, we have decided that we will pool all our resources and buy a property that we will live in. According to Age UK, more than 2 million people in England over the age of 75 live alone, and more than a million older people say they go for more than a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member. With our alternative old-age plan, we hope to avoid that loneliness. We will all live together and be each other’s carer and emotional companion. There will be no one tutting and losing patience with our slower pace of life, as we all would be ageing together. Our own individual care will be paramount, as each of us is likely to be relying on the other.
There is likely to be collective persons responsible for each other’s health. Currently, we all participate in pursuits such as operating, swimming, yoga and cycling, and none of us are smokers. When we’re old and living together, we will hire a yoga teacher, who will visit us once a week for a group class.
The feeling of losing one’s usefulness and purpose besets older people, whether you have infants or not. I wonder whether this feeling is overstated if you don’t have grandchildren to babysit or children to worry about. When our golden years arrive a-calling and we all move in together, my friends and I have decided that all our talents and abilities will be utilised. No one will feel useless. It’s a highly practical scheme. One of my friends is a nurse, one of us is a whizzs in the kitchen, another a keen gardener, while I love DIY and have an eye for interior design. We will be pooling not only our resources, but also our unique, individual talents and abilities. Instead of being redundant, these will be needed more than ever and celebrated.
Since my friends and I came up with our alternative old-age plan, get old no longer feels like a daunting prospect, and I no longer shy away from it- instead it feels hopeful and promising. I am virtually looking forward to it. Sam plays the piano and the guitar, Steph is a published novelist and I’m a writer; I look forward to the bohemian life that we will lead and being surrounded by like-minded people I will have known the majority of members of my adult life.
It virtually feels like the perfect society, where we all focus on “the worlds largest” good: helping each other out when we need it most. I envisage sungs and storytelling by the piano and a home filled with a certain joie de vivre . Yes, we have no infants to rely on, but we have each other, and we will share the understanding of what it means to get old. In fact, several friends of mine, who do have children, have asked me whether they can be included in our old-age plan.
To some it may appear a little utopian, but as my friend with kids insightfully pointed out, it’s no more utopian than expressed his belief that your children will look after you in your old age.
Read more: www.theguardian.com