In the latest issue of Maryland’s AARP Bulletin, UMBC research Kathryn de Medeiros describes how a new Center for Aging Studies research project was prompted by the growing number of childless older women. Generativity in the Lives of Older Women (GLOW) is a four-year project led by de Medeiros and Robert Rubinstein aimed at better understanding how older women without children invest themselves in future generations.
People often wrongly assume older women are mothers and/or grandmothers. In reality, approximately 20% of people 65 and over in the U.S. were “childless” in 2011—a figure that is expected to grow to 30% in 2030. GLOW researchers will interview 200 women to explore their views on the meaning that not having children has had in their lives; talk about ways they have influenced future generations through volunteerism, teaching, passing along personal objects and other creative activities; and discuss their plans for managing future health care needs, which might include family caregiving. This study will allow the researchers to learn more about an important yet often overlooked population with an eye to helping service organizations and policymakers rethink assumptions about family structure in older age.