Call us selfish, self-absorbed or whatever you wish, my husband and I are “DINKS” – dual income with no kids. We happen to love children, but our paths in life just didn’t take us in that direction.
So now what do we do? Headed for the golden years of retirement being childfree is not the way it was meant to be, I suppose. Consider the benefits of having children as you get older. They can take care of you in your old age. They continue the family lineage and could make you a grandparent one day. They can be a source of joy and companionship (on the good days) and provide parents with a reason to live, make plans and care for somebody other than themselves.
That is a very simplistic view of having children. Most every parent I know has spent a lifetime loving, caring for and providing for their children without the thought of building children into their plans for retirement and old age.
There’s no denying that retiring and dying alone, unloved and unwanted with no one to care for you is a frightening thought. However, it is possible to build another untraditional type of extended family, without actually having your own children.
Some people advise that many seniors – particularly those who are single – should consider a shared living arrangement.
An article by CARP – Canadian Association of Retired Persons—talks about the virtues of alternate accommodation in “Retiring with roommates: The merits of shared living as you age”.
Shared living arrangements help cut down on expenses in retirement when most people are on fixed incomes. They also help to address the social isolation that many people feel in old age with no one around.
Another way of “extending family” and social contacts in retirement that I have been thinking about lately is volunteering my time. The Globe and Mail article “How do I volunteer my retirement years so I truly make a difference?” outlines that while seniors contribute the most average volunteer hours of any age group (more than 200 a year), only 36 per cent of seniors (based on 2007 data) volunteer, compared to almost 50 per cent of other Canadians. Not knowing how and where to contribute skills and experience may certainly be a factor. The article provides prospective volunteers with an idea of organizations that would like to hear from them.
Volunteering to help a younger person in need in particular is my focus. This can certainly be a mutually beneficial arrangement with the younger person benefitting from spending time with and gaining experience from an older person, while the senior fills his or her time with a purposeful, meaningful contact by making a difference in a child’s life. There are many opportunities to do this. You may want to consider:
Foster Parenting: The Children’s Aid Society of Toronto (CAS), for example, states that “There are children in the community who need you! You can be the difference for a child in need by opening your home as a foster family.” While the CAS strives to keep children with their own families, sometimes this is not possible because the parents are not able to provide adequate care for their children. Foster care is an alternative for these children. Information about the child is provided to the prospective foster care givers, as well as training before a child is ever brought into the home.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada: This organization offers volunteer based mentoring programs. The volunteer mentors serve as role models and teach by example the importance of staying in school and showing respect for family, peers and the community. What ensues is “a life-changing relationship built on friendship, trust and empowerment.”
Volunteer Grandparents: The organization based on the west coast “is dedicated to the fulfillment and well-being of individual lives with the facilitation of intergenerational connections.”
With National Volunteer Week 2016 running from April 10 to 16, it’s timely to begin thinking about how to contribute your skills, talents and enthusiasm in a volunteer effort that will benefit the community and, in turn, make your retirement years meaningful, enjoyable and less lonely.