Ben Lowry: Some thoughts about being an older parent

Living to 100 might become the norm and so having children later in life will become a logical step
Living to 100 might become the norm and so having children later in life will become a logical step

How fascinating to read Alex Kane’s account (link beneath this article), of becoming a father at age 61.

When I was younger I assumed that one day I would have children, but gradually as the years passed I came to realise that it might not happen.

As Alex did when he was my age, you start to think instead of the consolations. I enjoy, for example, being an uncle and godfather but not having the 24 hour hassle the parents do.

Quite rapidly, in the last 20 years or so, there has been trend towards older parenthood. Most of my closest friends were in their late 30s before they became parents.

A disadvantage of older parenthood is that kids might not know grandparents. This depends how long we all live.

Some commentators say we need to prepare for the era of the 100-year life – a future in which it is the norm to become a centenarian (there is also a view that fatty diets mean we will not in fact live so long).

Many things will change if the average person lives to 100+ including longer working lives and longer periods of study or apprenticeship.

Having various careers might be another consequence. A friend of mine, who was a fine documentary maker, concluded it would be hard to make a living that way and at 36 began a medical degree.

My advice was: do it. You will be a doctor at 40, a senior one at 50 and at the top of your profession for 20+ years. He is, in his 40s, a psychiatrist.

Having children later is a logical upshot of a 100-year life. If Alex lives past 100, he might celebrate his son’s 40th.

The amateur historian in me likes the way in which people with older parents can link far back in time in a small number of generations.

One of my great great grandparents was alive in the Napoleonic wars (born 1813).

He was 50 (1863) when his son (my great grandfather) was born, who was himself 50 (1913) when my maternal grandmother was born.

I have a much younger first cousin, born around 2010, who has the same great great grandfather, born almost 200 years before her – average age of parenthood about 49 in each generation!

A colleague, 70, has a great granddaughter, also born around 2010. His now late mother (the girl’s great great grandmother) was born in the 1920s, and lived to see the young child.

So these two girls (my cousin and my colleague’s descendant) are both aged around seven – one girl has a great great grandparent from the early 1800s (because the average age of parenthood in her family was high), the other girl has a great great grandparent that she met! (because the average age of parenthood in her family was low).

• Ben Lowry (@BenLowry2) is News Letter deputy editor

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