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Abstract The number of dependent older people in England, as elsewhere, is projected to rise substantially, while the number of unpaid carers is not projected to rise by an equivalent amount. Barriers to people caring for older relatives have been theorised, however, there is a lack of understanding of attitudes to providing care in the future among people who are not currently carers. This paper presents qualitative analysis of interviews with 20 people in middle age about their willingness to care for older relatives in the future. Interviewees were asked their general views about who should provide care, then to consider future scenarios in which a close relative developed care needs. Willingness to care was influenced by beliefs about reciprocity, love and identity, beliefs about who was likely to provide the best quality and most appropriate care, and beliefs about how difficult caring would be. Older relatives’ care preferences were a key consideration. While some interviewees felt the best care would always be provided by family, others considered that professional skills were needed. Interviewees saw important roles for easily accessible information and advice, sharing care, including respite care, and financial support, in making it easier to provide care. The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown had highlighted relevant issues for interviewees, which are discussed.

Original publication




Journal article


Ageing and Society


Cambridge University Press (CUP)

Publication Date



1 - 20