A 62-year-old Australian woman recently gave birth to her first child, conceived using in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) technology. Critics have called her decision “selfish”, pointing out the probability of the woman being unable to care for her child for the next 20 years. However, some have defended her, stating that since the science is available, society cannot determine women’s personal choice. Readers debate.


Science creates opportunities, so why not have a child?

Wandalyn Tan-Calupig

I appreciate what the Australian parents did. It is a tough decision to have a baby at 62, and would require a lot of optimism. Deciding to have a child at such a senior age is a big step, because it is like a gamble, with risks at all levels – emotional, physical and financial. I have witnessed friends spending a lot of money to have a child, but who have ended up emotionally wounded, because it was not a successful process. It takes a brave heart and a lot of optimism to make such a decision, especially for the mother, because her health is at high risk during pregnancy. The success rate of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) in Australia is only at an average of 40 percent, with a 12 per cent average for women aged 40 and above, according to IVF Australia. So while science can help create such opportunities for women at an older age, there are still risks. I can only assume that in the case of the elderly Australian couple, the child was delivered healthy to parents aged 62 and 78, because they took extra steps to make sure the baby was healthy. It was a dream come true for them so society has no right to tell such parents they cannot have children. Dreaming is easy but making something like this happen requires a lot of faith. Science has its place, but it is the faith of this couple that made it possible for them to stick with their decision and see it through.

From Ms Wandalyn Tan-Calupig
Audit manager, based in Dubai

Financially secure elderly parents can provide for children

Dr Lalit Taori

If a couple want a child at an older age, then that is their personal decision. The technology to make this happen exists, so why shouldn’t a couple seize the opportunity, especially if they have no children? Yes, as women age, there can be defects in the child’s health, but as scientific research develops and technology advances, there are ways to reduce health risks. If people are able to afford treatment, they should absolutely use the chance to have a child.

In the case of the couple mentioned in the story, the father is 78 years old. Considering the eventuality that he may have only 20 more years to live, at best, he could perhaps make sure there is a back-up system in place – basically family or trusted friends – to look out for his child. Of course, no one can replace the parents. But it is a reality elderly parents would have to come to terms with. Some might say the child would have undue stress as a teenager or a young adult, since he would have to take care of elderly parents. But it’s only stressful if you think it is stressful. Many adults still find it difficult to care for their aging parents, while others don’t! On the upside, since the elderly parents had a child at such a late stage, they would be more financially secure and would ensure their child is well provided for, even if they pass away. So, in terms of stress, this is one less thing for the child to worry about when he/she grows older.

From Dr Lalit Taori
Doctor based in Dubai


Family matters
With the right support, it can be done

Aisha Al Janahi

If the elderly woman is in good health and she has a big family to turn to for support, why not have a child? Every day, I see people struggling to have a baby. They travel abroad and undergo medical procedures just to try and have a child. It must hurt for them. I’m sure this Australian woman in the news didn’t get this idea overnight. She must have thought from A to Z about how she’s going to raise her baby.

In Arab countries, you can see old people with young children, and they’re doing well. Some people have very long lifespans. So you cannot measure it by age, because you don’t know when a person will die. This is up to God. He knows better than we do. If He feels that a person will not be able to raise the baby well, He would not make it easy for her to do so. There are people in their twenties who get married and have children, but then pass away at a young age. We cannot be sure who will have a long life. Age is just a number. God will find a way to support people, so we cannot say to someone, ‘how dare you have a baby at this age?’

Furthermore, women who choose to have a baby later in life do not have to do it alone. There can be institutions and ways to bring awareness for support, especially towards family members. Even if something happens to the mother, there’s a support system to turn to – sisters, siblings, and every member of the family. All family members should cooperate and support each other. They must consider themselves part of a big family, and be there for the mother and child.

From Aisha Al Janahi
Senior media specialist based in Dubai

See it from the child’s perspective

Christina Castelo

I understand that for some women, not being a mother might be a source of major frustration. For example, if certain circumstances in their twenties and thirties prevented them from having children, the desire to become a parent might surface at an older age.

However, even if I can see it from that perspective, I still think it is unfair to the child. He or she won’t have enough time to spend with the parents. Even little things, like playing, might be too physically demanding for older parents to do. Other matters, like seeing your child get married or give birth to a grandchild is not something that older parents would get to experience. Eventually, the child and parent might become a burden for each other. The child might constantly worry about his or her parents’ well-being, while the mother and father might stress about the child’s future without them.

Although extended family might be there to help, not everyone has a strong family network or siblings that they can turn to. If it is your child, you should be prepared to take care of it. Family members might be there to give love and care, but motherly love and nurture is a different matter altogether.

I’ve heard the argument that older parents might be more financially stable, and can therefore secure a better future for the child. Since IVF treatment is costly, it’s safe to say that this Australian couple might have some wealth. The question becomes, how far can it stretch? Living expenses and education costs might go up in the next 10 or 20 years, or the parents themselves might need to pay for their own medical needs. It’s not a guarantee for a brighter future.

While I don’t think there should be legislation that prohibits older women from having children, those who want to go down that path should have complete knowledge of what they’re about to undertake. They should study a complete run-down of pros and cons. They should consider things from the child’s perspective as well, and be sensitive to what the child might undergo, being raised by an elderly parent.

From Christina Castelo
Digital Admin Assistant based in Dubai