The number of elderly women without children is set to triple in 25 years, meaning there will be a greater need for formal social care, official analysis suggests.
There are currently 20,892 women aged 80 without children in England and Wales, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported.
By 2045, the figure is expected to more than triple to 66,313.
This is because women born in the middle of the 1960s baby boom, who are now in their 50s, are twice as likely to be childless than those born immediately after the Second World War.
Coupled with an increase in life expectancy, the new data suggests there will be “many older people in the future who do not have adult children”.
Since children are the main group providing informal care for adults who are aged 85 and older, the new research suggests that demand for formal care, such as going into a care home, will likely rise.
Researchers looked at birth registration data of those born after the First World War, after the Second World War and during the 1960s baby boom for the study.
While it was not possible to estimate the number of childless men from the births data, separate analysis suggests similar levels of childlessness to women in the post-Second World War and 1960s groups.
The ONS warned that the projected increase of elderly childless adults is likely to increase the already “substantial” unmet need in the social care sector.
This number does not include older people whose children have died before them or are unable to help them, but it may include women with step or adopted children.
Reasons for the 1960s group remaining childless could include an increase in female employment – with more women attending university, as well as a change in attitudes towards having children.
“Although there is no evidence that the children of tomorrow’s older population will be any less willing or able to provide care for their parents than the children of today’s, there will be much larger numbers of older people in the future who do not have children,” the ONS article said.
It added that a higher proportion of those without children are receiving formal care.
“Higher levels of childlessness among the older population in the future therefore implies demand for formal care will increase, (and this is in the context of the substantial unmet care needs today),” the article added.
Catherine Foot, director of evidence at the Centre for Ageing Better, said society must “wake up” to the implications of an ageing population.
She said: “As these figures show, the number of people entering later life without children is set to dramatically increase in the years to come – with serious knock-on effects on the demand for social care.
“Without action to fix our social care system, we risk sleepwalking into a crisis.”