Last night I was part of a panel discussion at Huffington Post Live about facing old age without children. The other panelists were Sharon Kovacs Grue, an estate planner from New York, Joanne Lema, founder of AfterFiftyLiving.com from Massachusetts, and Kelly Dunleavy O’Mara, a childfree writer from California.
We each talked from home via “Google hangout,” which was a new and interesting experience. I’m going to have to work on getting a better angle for my webcam so my eyes don’t look like I’ve got them closed, but it was amazing to sit at my desk and talk to people all over the country. On the phone afterward, I had trouble explaining this to my father who kept asking things like whether a film crew came to my house. Uh, no. It was just me and the dog. Amazing.
It was an interesting discussion in which we concluded that life is a gamble and even if a person has children, she can’t count on them being around to help in old age. Maybe she shouldn’t even expect them to. Lema said she taught her children to be independent and take care of themselves, and she tries to do the same. We all agreed that, childless or not, it’s important to prepare for future challenges by setting up insurance, wills, advance directives and power of attorney, as well as maintaining connections with friends or family who will jump in when needed and know what to do. We were mostly talking about people over 50, but nobody knows what’s going to happen in life, so it’s good to be prepared at any age.
There was so much more to say than we had time for. I wanted to get into a discussion about the emotional aspects of aging without offspring, but mostly we talked about medical emergencies, nursing homes, finances and that kind of stuff. Some of the comments suggested we were all childless by choice. Nope.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.