What We Will Do For Our Parents

We're willing to make calculated sacrifices to care for our parents as they age

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We Will Be There

81% of us say, "We owe our parents the same type of physical, emotional and financial support they have given us."


75% of us say, "Even though it will be a financial sacrifice, I will assist my parents because it is the right thing to do."


63% of us say, "It is morally unacceptable to not allow a parent in need to move in with you if you have enough room."

We Are Clear About What Motivates Us

Duty: 46%


Love: 26%


Moral Obligation: 11%

We Will Sacrifice

When asked, "What would you give up in order to support your parents financially?" respondents answered:


55%: "My day-to-day lifestyle"

38%: "Big-ticket items, such as cars, electronics, vacations"

23%: "My own retirement savings"

15%: "The value of my home"

7%: "My children's education fund"


But there are significant gender differences: Women are more likely than men to say they would sacrifice their day-to-day lifestyle (60 percent versus 51 percent); men are more likely to sacrifice retirement savings (26 percent versus 20 percent) or the value of their home (18 percent versus 12 percent). Surprisingly, the number of dissenters – those who said they would give up "none of these" – was balanced by gender: 21 percent.

Boys Will Stay Tight With Their Mothers

84% of men vs. 76% of women describe their relationship with their mother as "very close" or "somewhat close."


For women, closeness with their mothers starts to decline at age 30, bottoms out between 40 and 54, and begins to pick up again after 55. ne possible reason: The attention of women in that age group is typically diverted by the needs of their children.

Boys Will Take In Mom

Men ages 18 to 29 are almost twice as likely as women of the same age to live with their mothers.


Men over age 55 are six times as likely as women of the same age to share living space with mom.


Here's a surprise: Men in almost every age group were more likely than women to report that their mother lives with them. But don't assume they are providing eldercare. "From my clinical experience, it's often the case that there's a daughter-in-law in the picture" performing much of the care, says Gwyther. "The main research evidence is that men are equally committed and equally involved, but they tend to be the decision makers rather than the doers. Often they could not do it without the daughter-in-law.

Girls Will Take In Dad

Women ages 40-54 are twice as likely as men of the same age group to share their homes with their fathers.

Growing Up in a Multigenerational Household Changes Your Attitude

If you grew up in a household with three or more generations (a multigenerational household, or MGH), or if you live in one now, you are more likely to believe that you have a responsibility to care for your parents as they age—and that your children should do the same for you.


"It is morally unacceptable to not allow a parent to move in with you."

78% who currently live in MGH agree, vs. 57% who don't live in MGH


"I believe my children should take me in if necessary."

72% who currently live in MGH agree, vs. 48% who don't live in MGH

Your Ethnicity Makes a Difference

Asians believe most strongly that it is morally unacceptable to not allow a parent to move in if you have the space (77% agree; 21% disagree). African Americans are split equally, 44% agree; 45% disagree). Falling somewhere in between: Whites (65% agree; 27% disagree) and Hispanics (63% agree; 29% disagree).

Your Political Party Matters

Republicans are more likely than either Democrats or Independents to agree that "we owe our parents the same type of physical, emotional and financial support they have given us": 91% versus 79% versus 78%.

A Finding We Didn't Expect

If one of your parents has already died, you are less likely to say you will make a financial sacrifice to help your remaining parent with eldercare because it is the right thing to do (78 percent of people with both parents living agree versus 69 percent of people with one living parent). This attitude may stem from having learned what care really costs. "The amount of the financial contribution could be greater with one parent," says Constance Coogle, associate director for research at the Virginia Center on Aging at Virginia Commonwealth University. "When there were two parents, what they needed wasn't as great as it is now that Dad's got to go into assisted living. As long as parents are together, they just need us to bring them groceries. With one, we assume the level of contribution will be greater."


Next: What We Won't Do For Them


Previous: What Do We Owe Our Parents?


(Photo: Robert Kneschke/Shutterstock.com)

First published in the September 2013 issue

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