Has COVID increased your concerns about your parents health and happiness?

While it’s sometimes difficult to broach the topic of retirement and downsizing with ageing parents, you could be helping them gain a new lease on life.

“Surely it’s time to reward yourself, Mum and Dad?”

“You’re still working so hard and all the work around the house continues to stop you from getting out and connecting with friends.”

Most adult children have had this type of conversation with ageing, strong-willed parents at some point, but too often the response is to dismiss the idea of retirement out of hand.

People of all ages want to feel productive and useful and older Australians are no different. To many, the word retirement seems like a cul-de-sac rather than a new direction in life.

Kate Melrose, General Manager of Project Sales at Ingenia Communities, believes that traditional notions of retirement are breaking down as Baby Boomers reach their 60s.

“There is an increasing trend of people who never retire,” she says. “They are continuing in paid work or volunteer work until much later – they are living a hybrid life of work, travelling and ticking off all those things on their own bucket list.”

Melrose believes that unlike their own parents (the silent generation) or grandparents (the war generation), Baby Boomers are actually more likely to welcome the notion of downsizing from the family home and embracing a more flexible, hassle-free and community-oriented lifestyle.

“Previous generations had a tendency to defer that decision until a moment of crisis, but Boomers have always been trendsetters and they are doing that again in retirement,” she says. “And, let’s be clear, downsizing isn’t the beginning of the end. We would rather call the process ‘right-sizing’, which is really about opening  an exciting new chapter in your life.”

Rather than resisting change, the generation of Australians who grew up in the 1960s, with its various social and political upheavals, have continued to drive change at each stage of life. They are also driving change and innovation as they look to downsize and housing providers are responding with more flexible housing models – like the one offered by Ingenia Communities.

Rather than focusing on just retirement, Melrose believes that children and parents should pro-actively discuss the options that lay ahead. Exploring options and planning reduces anxiety associated with change and it is crucial for mental and physical wellbeing to have choice, control and flexibility as we age.

“Given what’s happened in 2020, this might be a good time to open the dialogue and identify what might be concerning your parents,” she says.

“Children can also calm their parents’ fears about downsizing. Selling the family home is an emotional issue, but they need to understand that those memories will always stay with them, and there is the joy of freeing yourself up for the years ahead.”

While staying in the family home might be viable for some older people, others will need to consider different options; National Seniors research shows that 36 per cent of Australians 50 and over occupy homes that are not suitable for them as they age.

According to Melrose, the beauty of an over 55s community is that older people retain their independence while freeing themselves up financially; the level of support and care they receive can be adjusted as their needs change over the years.

Lifestyle living also offers a greater sense of connection and community often lacking in modern neighbourhoods. Our parents grew up in a time where everyone knew their neighbour, which just is not the case anymore. Community living provides people with a chance to experience a close-knit community, providing social connection, friendship and security that is often left behind as we age.

“It’s about control, choice and flexibility,” she says. “If something goes wrong with you or your partner, you know you live in a home you can adapt to your ageing needs surrounded by a supportive community.”

How to speak to your parents about downsizing!

2020 redefined how we live, prompting many people to reconsider what’s really important. While we all have different dreams and aspirations, there are a few values we all have in common – that’s the importance of community, finances and lifestyle.

Download our guide on how to help your parents plan for their future.