Kiran Aldridge and her friends are in their 40 s and none of them have children. 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 children. We have known each other for what seems to be an infinity; we went to college together, and then visited each other at different universities and remained good friends. I clearly ensure a timeline of our dialogues throughout the years: how we stayed up all night studying for exams fuelled by copious quantities 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 dialogue 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 vexing fly. It needs to be answered, or at least wrapped up and packaged like an unwanted gift. It is postulated that, if you have children, getting help in your older years is easy. But what if you don’t have children to help you chug along when life becomes tough? Who will look after you then?
There are myriad reasons why none of us had children; some constructed 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, to its implementation of physical capabilities, without children. This induces “i m feeling” a little embarrassed. 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 motive, she added. I asked her why she had children.” I wanted to have my own family ,” she said. I asked her why, and she said:” I wanted to be surrounded by love .” I questioned whether her own motivation to have children was an altruistic one.
We want children to love, to fill our lives, to give us purpose, to carry on the family name, and to satisfy our own maternal desire to fostering 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, family does mean looking after one another, particularly 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 opinion of this; there seemed to be no room for individualism 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 seeming out for each other. As a younger person, the focus is on the individual, but when you get older, I believe the focus changes to your connect 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 idea. More importantly, as her ageing body weakens and is prone to falling, there is always somebody to pick 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 comfy old age than the one I insure 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 pond all our resources and buy a property that we will live in. According to Age UK, more than 2 million people in England over persons under 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 and every one of us will be relying on the other.
There will be collective responsibility for each other’s health. Currently, we all participate in pursuits such as running, 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 children or not. I wonder whether this feeling is exaggerated if you don’t have grandchildren to babysit or children to worry about. When our golden years come a-calling and we all move in together, my friends and I have decided that all our talents and skills 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 whizz 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 skills. 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 scheme, 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 nearly 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 leading and being surrounded by like-minded people I will have known most of my adult life.
It virtually feels like the perfect society, where we all focus on the greater good: helping one another out when we need it most. I see sungs and storytelling by the piano and a home filled with a certain joie de vivre . Yes, we have no children to rely on, but we have one another, 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 children 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