September 02, 2006

The Childfree Senior

"So what happens when you get old, who’s going to take care of you?"

This question comes up regularly when people are invited to evaluate a childfree life.

This is what I imagine…

My husband and I are living in a small garden home in a planned community. We can walk to the bank, the grocery, the café on the corner. Our dog (the one we haven’t adopted yet, the cute little terrier or mutt from the pound) accompanies us on our trips out and forces us to get out even on the coldest days.

We acknowledge the shopkeepers, the café owner. They ask us to evaluate or sample their new offerings. We are regulars.

We shop daily for our food. The grocer offers prepared food: homemade soups, squares of his mom’s famous lasagna, maybe some tiramisu if our diet allows it. Sometimes dinner is cheese, fruit and crackers in front of the TV as we watch our latest Netflicks selection.

I go to aquarobics twice a week and vounteer at the art museum. We go out with the Dinner Club group once a week. Occassionally we go to a see the guest lecturer at the college. We visit our homebound friends, with a box of lasagna from the grocer. We trust that someone will do this for us when we are ill or homebound. We have a wide circle of friends—we call them our tribe. We spend Thanksgiving with them, we open our home on Christmas Eve and we share food and wine.

We take care of each other when we can. When we can’t we’ll take one final Mediterannean cruise and we move into the assisted living apartment we have picked out. The one that has the beautiful courtyard we can look out on. The one that has a therapy dog called Rufus who likes to lick hands. Jean, our tribe elder, lives down the hall. Oftentimes she forgets my name but she always remembers the time I mistakenly walked in the men’s room in Spain and the guy at the urinal gave me a full frontal.

We’re never too old to laugh.

Photo: Originally uploaded to Flickr on October 16, 2006 by *butterfly net*

Technorati Tag:


Andrew said...

I love trying to envision the future, especially with optimism like you. I think hope is an engine that keeps us going. It's great that you have such a nice vision to hope for :o)

To Love, Honor and Dismay

twiga92 said...

What gets me about this question is that having children is no guarantee that they'll be around to take care of you when you're old. And if that's the reason for having them, well, that seems like a pretty lame reason.

alpahgirl said...

Due to my financial circumstances, I know I will have to work until the very end.

All I can hope for and work for is good health; that will allow me to enjoy my senior years with optimism and independence....

No different than what others hope for, except I don't have to worrry about babysitting grandkids or tripping over their toys. That in itself is gonna make for some awesome Golden Years!

Elise said...


What a lovely scenario you bring to us. My ideas of old age are similar.

I bring my high school student musicians to assisted living facilities and nursing homes to perform chamber music and choral pieces a couple of times a year. Let me tell you, most of the people there are parents, and there's plenty of that population who have no idea where their kids might be.

The elders' delight in my students, not only because of the music but because of the sheer human concern, contact, and interest, is a beautiful thing to see. At the same time, my students get to see a slice of life they're not normally privy to --- right in the middle of the absolute physical prime of their lives. Many are temporarily scared by the process, but in the long run, humbled and happy to have done it.

No one should have kids beause they'll need company in old age. Cultivate friendships, hobbies, and interests. "Don't breed...evolve" (love that one).


Teri said...

Andrew - A warm welcome to our first Dad to leave a comment! Yes, Laura's optimism paints a beautiful of hope.

Twiga - I couldn't agree more.

AlphaGirl - Now I see the ultimate wisdom in your marathon training WalkerGirl. (Do you wear a Purple cape and leap small buildings just for fun?!)

Elise (Doc Band) - Wow. You really do that with your students? What a beautiful thing.

I can see how old age homes might be scary to young people, people of any age for that matter.

Assisted living less so, and an important option to excercise while you still qualify. These places were created so you can have your independence for as long as possible.

You don't want to go straight into a skilled nursing facility if you don't have to. I used to work for a nonprofit hospice and you want to ask if hospice care is a part of the assisted living community. Plan for the end, don't fear it.

And above all, invest in yourself, your health, and your friendships.

Teri said...

LauraS - I am adopting your vision...especially the no cook nights!

My husband is truly happiest when we live within walking distance of great grocers and restaurants. Nothin' more romantic than walking down the street hand-in-hand.

Since we moved to Canada, we've really missed our Netflix! For those who are unfamilear, it's a DVD movie subscription service with delivery by mail. They pioneered the concept of no late fees.

Love the idea of one last cruise (hope I can afford it) before down-sizing, but I want to do it before I can no longer tango.

LauraS said...

I always like to dream big. I liked what Elise said: "plan for the end--don't fear it"
I'm a huge travel junkie. It's my biggest vice and my greatest pleasure. Cruises don't have to be expensive. Take a last minute booking and save big bucks. Book the cheapest inside cabin--you're never going to spend much time in the room anyway. And plan your own excursions at port. Most of the sights at port can be reached by foot or by local taxi. You don't need to book the excursions on board.
You can spend less than $80 a day on a cruise if you plan it right. So don't wait!!!

Elise said...


It's at least as good for the students as it is for the seniors. It gives the students a fairly low-stakes performance outlet. Playing for their peers? Stressful! For their parents? Not much better! For the general public? Often pretty tough, as well. But playing for a small group of seniors, all of whom pay rapt attention and shower them with grandparent-like praise? Not so bad!

Of course, it doesn't hurt that we go to the coffeehouse afterward in cold weather or for ice cream in warm weather. Ahhhh, the joys of private school teaching! 8^)

Tiara Lynn said...

My husband and I had a talk about our future, and even though we're just rounding the bend at 30, we feel excited about our senior selves. We saw what we want to become at Dragon*Con, a science-fiction convention, this weekend in Atlanta (a trip we'd never have taken if we were childed!)...

There was the loveliest older couple, probably in their sixties, and you could just feel how in love they still were. They were both decked out in elaborate costumes and just consumed with each other. We saw them throughout the Con and it gave us great joy.

Then, when we were walking with friends near the end of the convention, we saw them again. My girlfriend said "oh my god, that's so you guys in 30 years".

I wish I had talked to them. I wonder if they had children of their own. I fantasized that they are just like us, no kids because they're just big kids themselves! Seeing those folks reminded me that a childfree life means keeping that part of ourselves alive.

AthenaMarina said...

Fantastic everyone!!
OK my turn
Hmm well hubby & I too are travel mad too...
In the future we continue to enjoy travelling, theatre and concerts! We also enjoy cruises. We have lots of friends whose company we enjoy but we also like spending time togther and on our own and we often spread Christmas off travelling somewhere! I collect stamps, stickers, antiques, we birdwatch, we go dancing, we continue to enjoy taking photos and videos (esp. of our travels.) We have a wonderful dog and cat we just adore and a fabulous home. The area we live in has a mix of people in their 30s to 60s, some 20s too. I like to paint and write, (have been published too!)still surf the net and we go for lots of walks. I still play online games at times and we learned to build and sell dolls houses and tiny furniture etc. which we did for a little while We still enjoy both home cooking together and dining out and are as much in love as ever. My husband still enjoys his football games. We spend time almost every year in my home country, his or both. Sometimes I go to the old folks homes and sing for them - they love it! I have also done volunteer work for the SPCA and sponsered several animal charities including one which supports family planning (i.e. letting people know contraception is available and an option) in deprived countries. (I don't yet know if such a charity exists but if so I'm all for it!) And that's us. We have a wonderful time & enjoy our golden years immensely. I was working as a life coach, and sometimes still do and my husband as an architect but we also spend most of our time at leisure now. And sleep in loads. MMM! Occasionally we see our nephews, neices, 2nd cousins etc. but don't feel the need to see them all the time! Did I mention we have a gorgeous garden?!

clairity said...

Creative Commons is about sharing. So is having children, by the way, although some suffer for the loss of that gift. I don't subscribe to your negative message, but I share regardless, as God does with us his creation. *clairity*

Teri said...

Clairity - Thank you for being so generous and honest.