Video: Who cares for the childless elderly?

By Chief medical editor
NBC News
updated 5/2/2007 7:37:01 PM ET 2007-05-02T23:37:01

Barbara Meltzer is a busy professional. Unmarried, she's never had children. And as she gets older, she fears that might put her in quite a predicament.

"I realized that I don't have anybody to help me," Meltzer says.

And as caregiver to her 90-year-old mother, Meltzer knows how important "help" can be.

"I take her out to lunch or breakfast, and I have to take her out to all the doctor appointments and haircuts," Meltzer says.

Meltzer's fear is that there will be no one there for her when her time comes.

"I look at my mom, and I see all the possibilities for my future," she says. "I am looking at one of my greatest fears."

But her situation is not as unusual as you might think.

"More and more baby boomers are childless, and so they are facing old age without really a family to care for them," says John Rother, policy director for AARP.

In 1984, the percent of childless women aged 40 to 44 was 11.1 percent. Twenty years later, it's risen to 19.3 percent, and it's still going up.

"And that's going to have a tremendous impact and going to be an entirely different situation than the situation our parents faced when they got older," Rother says.

Experts say plan ahead, stay healthy, check your finances (and start saving now) and find community resources before you need them.

Meltzer is doing all of those things but still worries about what the future will hold.

"Who's going to help me?" she asks. "Who's going to be my voice?"

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