What appears in our mid-thirties then reappears in our mid-sixties and affects people whether they are men, women, young or old, whatever ethnic origin or sexual orientation, wherever they live?

The expectation to have children in our lives and in our family.

Children can bring joy, but to an increasing number, the lack of children in their lives is bringing negativity, not just from the missing small person, but from the attitudes of big people – “it is seen as a deficit” to not have children.Ageing Without Children is an issue has resonated with many people since Kirsty Woodard wrote a blog in the Guardian in April last year.

Childlessness has links with ageism, racism, sexism and homophobia – but there is a new phobia here – a fear of the childless. Ageing Without Children is a new initiative, brought to life by a group of passionate and articulate people who all bring their own perspectives on this issue. Since they set up (within the last year) they have received increasing media coverage and great support from the Beth Johnson Foundation and others, leading to last week’s event in east London, where they brought together people and organisations who want to find solutions to the stigma attached to being childless in today’s society.

They now want to hear from people who are ageing without children themselves, or from organisations who are helping them. Your insights will help this young organisation to choose its goals.

For example, is this an issue that people or people in power could do something about? When asked what one thing could government do, the answer from the panel at the conference was simple, and links to the need to better understand the problems faced by those at risk of loneliness in our own publication, Promising Approaches, launched on the same day: “government currently relies on the children of older parents to care for them, but it doesn’t know how many people are ageing without children. It needs to know the extent of the problem – we don’t currently know how many men are childless – we only ask women – we can’t base future policy on half of the population”.

It is this population-wide measurement of the risk factors of loneliness (ageing without children is one of them) that we at the Campaign are also calling for, and a commitment to start with the individual and their personal circumstances would include not making the assumption that someone who is isolated has close family to call on for help.

For more information about Ageing Without Children and to fill in their survey visit: http://awoc.org/survey/