Thursday, October 27, 2005

And the sins of the grandfathers shall be visited upon, but not live with, the generations

"Most older Australians would rather live in a tent than move in with their grown-up children. The vast majority of people surveyed for a large housing research project dismissed out of hand the idea of sharing or living in a granny flat. "[The suggestions] were met with quite animated articulations of disdain and dismissal," the report said.

"To be released today at the National Housing Conference in Perth, the study of almost 7000 people aged 50 and over shows most regard the idea of the extended family under one roof with horror. "Never in a million years would I consider moving in with my children. One of us would be jailed for murder," was a typical response.

"The study found only 4.2 per cent of older Australians had lived with extended family or intended to do so. Diana Olsberg, who co-wrote the study with Mark Winters, and is director of the UNSW Research Centre on Ageing and Retirement, said: "Many referred to very unpleasant experiences they had as children living in an inter-generational household with grandparents."

The extended family experience was regarded as an endurance test imposed on people by the Depression and housing shortages, the report said. It was viewed as destructive and negative, and to be avoided. "We had my grandfather living with us," recalled one respondent. "An old pig he was too....

"The research, funded by the federal and state governments, reveals significant shifts in the values and priorities of older people - and a surprising openness about the downside of family life. It shows that many older people, far from being a homogenous group, bound by traditions, valued independence and flexibility; and the home-owners among them saw the home as a means to achieve "lifestyle choices".

"The topic of moving in with the children "opened up a can of worms", Dr Olsberg said. Participants surprised themselves at the negative sentiments they expressed about families and children. There were repeated references to underlying tensions and hostilities that could erupt at any time. Rather than fearing they might be a burden on their children if they moved in, older people saw the potential for trouble. "I could live with my youngest daughter. We are good friends," a 63-year-old woman said. "But I would have to dispose of her husband...."



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