You can choose your friends but you sho' can't choose your family...

Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

We have two children, both boys, who are now in their 40s, and if we had been able to choose our family we could not have chosen better. One of our sons has a son himself – our adored and adorable grandson who is an utter joy in our lives. We are fortunate in that both sons live short distances away – 10 minutes and 30 minutes by car, although neither of us drive.

Before the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, we saw our sons regularly. One of our sons called in most days for a cup of tea and a chat and the other spoke to us at least twice a week over FaceTime. They seem to enjoy coming to see us and we love catching up with what is going on in their lives. Our sons and our grandson also come to us every Friday evening for dinner, with our grandson usually choosing the menu – it is a jolly and fun occasion! Of course, the pandemic has now put paid to all our normal routine.

Although we miss the physical presence of them all and spending time with them, we have the facility of FaceTime with one of them and he has been able to arrange regular calls for us with him and our grandson. We all speak with one another on a daily basis, if not by FaceTime then by telephone. It is brilliant to keep in touch, but I can’t wait to be able to hug our grandson again.

Although we miss the physical presence of them all and spending time with them, we have the facility of FaceTime...

During this isolation, both our sons have been wonderful. Between them, they have ensured (on a daily basis) that all our needs are met and that we are doing okay. We want for nothing in terms of food, household goods, etc. because if they are available in the supermarkets the boys will buy them for us. It seems rather a role reversal that our children are now ministering to our needs in such detail when until the time they left home we were ministering to their needs in similar manner.

In the circumstances, my wife and I could not be better looked after. We are so very fortunate. But there are those of our generation who are not as fortunate in that they do not have family members to rely on for the love, care and support that so many need at this time.

Biological or emotional, a family is there.

This is where we return to the words of Harper Lee. You need not be alone, because you have people you have chosen as friends and people who have chosen you as a friend. We all build an emotional family comprising of these friends and they are only a telephone's distance away. Give them a call, I’m sure you’ll find that they are there for you and will help in so many things, even if it is simply lending a listening ear. Different friends will support you in various ways, with different approaches and strengths, just as different family members offer help to me and my wife in their own ways.

Biological or emotional, a family is there. Pick up a phone and speak with them. Some may well be in a similar situation to yourself and the care and assistance will be a great comfort to each of you.  

While it is heart-warming to hear about the support John receives from his family, approximately 15% of people in later life don’t have children.

Independent Age is calling on the Government to ensure that support is in place for older people who need it rather than simply relying on the support of children.