A new dad at 60-plus

I come from a society where men are seen as being evergreen — reproductive wise. People will hardly raise an eyebrow when a man as in his sixties. When President Jacob Zuma became a new dad for the twentieth time back in 2009, at the mature age of 67 it did not strike me as unusual. Of course there were some people who were of the opinion that at his age a man shouldn’t be having children. However, it’s interesting to note that Mr Zuma is not alone in the group of senior citizen men who’ve became new dads.

Dad’s a pensioner

In 2010, an Indian man, Ramjit Raghav, became the world’s oldest father at the extremely ripe age of 94. The late Julio Iglesias Sr (the father of the Singer Julio and grandfather of the singer Enrique became a dad at 89) and Rupert Murdoch, the Australian-American global media tycoon,  became a dad at 72. The list goes on and on.
This phenomenon usually happens when a much older man gets into a relationship with a younger woman.

But the is it fair for a man  to bring a child into this world fully knowing that he won’t be around long enough to see that child grow? British journalist, Donald Trelford, who became a dad at 73 answered this question in an essay published in the Daily Mail  when he said: “I certainly won’t be able to enjoy the exceptionally long relationship I had with my own father that lasted all of 64 years, but many children are brought up in single households and go on to lead happy and successful lives.”

What do some the partners of senior citizen dads have to say about parenting? Rachel Ragg (40),who is married to Anthony (70) became a mother at 31, had this to say in her essay, also published in the Daily Mail (UK): “Since the children were small, I have been the traditional mother but I have also, largely, had to be a traditional father too — building dens, playing chasing games and organising treasure hunts. For, while Anthony is fit and active, he is no physical match for two vigorous children.”

Cheated out of childhood?

But one would wonder how these children born very late in their father’s life feel later in life. One reader responded: ‘I feel like having an older parent is amazing, because you get to experience so much wisdom and they can show you a lot of things. That being said, my dad died when I was 16, and I do feel a bit cheated that I missed out on so many years with him.’

So what is the ideal age for a man to have a baby? According to recent research as men reach the age of 40 the quality of their sperm reduces and this brings with it a high risk of disorders in children such as schizophrenia , autism and achondroplasia dwarfism. Some health officials have concluded that the best time for a man to father a child is when he is in his twenties.

But most men who become dads in their twilight years seem to think that they are better dads than they could have been when they were younger.

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

Read more by Sipho Yanano

What do you think should be the cut-off age for fathering a baby?
We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24