What Do We Owe Our Parents?

Our mothers and fathers are living longer than any previous generation. How much time and money should we expect to devote to them? What are the limits to love, duty and moral obligation? In an exclusive nationwide survey, men and women shed light on what we think we owe our parents—and what we believe our children owe us

by Jennifer Braunschweiger
what do we owe image
Photograph: Annabel Clark

Today there are almost six million Americans age 85 or over. By 2040 the number will have shot up to more than 14 million, according to U.S. Census projections. That means there’s a lot of eldercare in our future—a lot of finding Dad’s lost keys, picking up Mom’s prescriptions, calling insurance companies, sitting by hospital beds. And depending on how old you are right now, in that time frame you could end up both providing eldercare and receiving it from your kids.

There’s no prenup for eldercare, no contract in which we lay out clearly what tasks we are willing to do, how much time and money we are willing to spend and what responsibilities, if any, lie beyond the scope of the agreement. We face the future not knowing what will be asked of us, assuming that because of love, duty and moral obligation, we will do whatever we need to do to help our parents. We may expect our kids will do the same for us. But where will we draw the line? Is there anything we won’t do?

The full results of our exclusive nationwide survey are available in the September issue of More, on sale August 27.

First published in the September 2013 issue

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