Older Australians happy to embrace their empty nests

While many older Australians experience mixed feelings about their children leaving home, most are embracing the new-found freedom it affords, according to a study released by the Australian Seniors Insurance Agency.

The Empty Nesters report explores how older Australians feel about their children leaving the family home from an emotional, financial and social perspective.

According to YourLifeChoices’ recent Retirement Matters survey, 17 per cent of members still have an adult child living in the family home.

Of the YLC members with an adult child living at home, almost one third do not pay rent or contribute to household expenses.

According to the Empty Nesters report, although more than half (51.4 per cent) of older Australians say they were happy after their children first left home, one in four (41.1 per cent) admit they were sad at the development.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, mothers are more affected by their children leaving than fathers.

Men were more likely to say they felt happy when their children moved out (61.3 per cent vs 42.8 per cent) while women were more likely to be upset (49.4 per cent vs 31.4 per cent).

No matter the initial reaction, however, most eventually embrace their empty nester status. In fact, the majority (74.2 per cent) say they ended up enjoying the extra time at their disposal, their financial position changed for the better (67.8 per cent) and they felt a new sense of freedom (62.5 per cent) after their children first moved out of home.

Elisabeth Shaw, Chief Executive at Relationships Australia NSW said: “For many Australian seniors, becoming empty nesters is a bittersweet moment.

“On the one hand, parents are proud to see their children make their way in the world; however, the lack of day-to-day contact after years of living under one roof can be a difficult transition.

“Happily, this research says that most seniors soon find they have plenty to do once the children have flown the nest.

“Seniors can embrace old interests, social events and friendships that may have been put on the backburner while they were busy with the family, or even take up entirely new hobbies with their extra time and, in many cases, improved financial situation.

“It’s encouraging to see seniors are using their free time to improve their health, with the research showing 30.8 per cent of seniors who took up sports or exercise began walking more, while others are furthering their study, most commonly in the arts and humanities.”

Not all nests stay empty, however. Almost a third (32.3 per cent) of those surveyed have experienced ‘boomerang children’ who left home but ended up moving back in, most commonly for financial reasons (39.5 per cent) or due to relationship issues like a break up (31.8 per cent).

These boomerang children occasionally bring an entourage with them – 19.1 per cent bringing home their partners, while one in eight (12.7 per cent) say they brought their own children with them.

“Parents want the best for their kids and are likely to welcome their ‘boomerang children’ back into the family home,” Ms Shaw said.

“This can force seniors to make sacrifices that often go unnoticed by the returning child. However, as long as they’re willing to help out around the home and are respectful of their parents, there’s no reason why seniors and their adult children can’t continue to live together happily,” she added.

How did you cope with becoming an empty nester? Do you still have adult children living at home? How do you feel about the situation?

Written by Ben

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