Boomerang Parents

Posted on September 12th, 2011, by iMinerva


The article from The New Old Age blog on the NY Times online site is from 2008 but the reality remains in 2011 and should be expected to expand in the future. A lot of parents are moving “home” to live with their kids – who are now parents with their own kids. The trend is the same whether you live in the White House in D.C., or the gray house on Main Street. Aging parents, now grandparents, are moving in.

Mrs. Robinson moved into the White House with daughter Michelle and her husband Barack Obama.  Obviously, the motivation was to help support the Obama children rather than for physical or financial necessity.  But across America, economic realities are bringing families back together.  Grandma and Gramps are struggling on social security as their investment nest egg twindles.  It’s expensive to support a house, senior retirement communities are costly, nursing homes are expensive and dismal, any other options are non-existent.

I’m not sure why this is a surprise or a trend.  I grew up in a “gathered family” home.  Grandma and my aunt and uncle lived on the second floor of our 2-flat, my family lived on the first floor.  Next door, the grandparents lived with my best friend, Midge, and her family, and the same scenario was seen up and down our street.  It was great.  As a child, I loved the time I spent with Gramma, and mom appreciated having her nearby for baby-sitting, advice, and friendship.  Dad and my uncle shared the outdoor chores and home repairs, and we all often shared meals.  What’s not to like?  Many societies around the world assume that the generations will live together.

However, today’s familial society has grown more independent and the need to “live on one’s own” and not be a “burden” to our children is a driving force that may lead to economic disaster.  It’s not an easy decision for anyone in the generational hierarchy.  Moving together changes lives – maybe good and sometimes not so good.  Who gets to be “the parent?”   How does everyone maintain a sense of privacy while sharing close quarters?  How do habits and eccentricities  and different values not drive other family members crazy???

“What do you mean, you can’t drink 2% in your coffee?  Cream is clotting your arteries with every sip you take!”  “You can’t just sit in that chair all day.  You need to go to the health club with me and walk on the track.”  “You shouldn’t let your daughter wear that short skirt to school.  She’s inviting trouble.”  And the conversation goes on……

The challenges become even greater when failing health is an issue.

There are no easy answers.  We’re all getting older – older than prior generations on average – and we’re carving new paths.  Where do you see your path leading?  Are you preparing – or have you already moved in with a child?  What is your ideal next move?  Please share your thoughts with others at iMinerva.


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