Niagara Gazette

Columns

December 18, 2012

CONFER: Seniors and the power of family

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — But, things changed significantly in the mid-to-late 1900s. Rather than living within their means and the means of their families all the while contributing to the emotional and intellectual development of the extended household, seniors instead distanced themselves from their families, and their families from them. Grandpa was no longer living with John and Olivia while helping to raise John-Boy and his siblings. Instead, Modern Grandpa kept to himself and struggled to pay the bills in his lifelong home. Maybe he “downsized” or opted for life in a retirement community, miles away — and sometimes states away — from his kin. By 1990, less than 17 percent of seniors lived with their young – a 72 percent drop!

This development— the dismantling of the extended family — was encouraged by the benevolence of the federal government. The oldsters became independent because they became wards of the state (which is totally oxymoronic). First, FDR’s Social Security gave them the entitlement of old age income. Then, LBJ’s Medicare supplemented this social welfare. With both, they no longer needed the family to survive, and the family believed they didn’t need to take care of the grandparents.

It’s no coincidence that, over that same time period, the nuclear family changed as well— divorces and/or single parent homes abound and it seems like two-parent or original-parent households are now an abnormality. Could it be because the elders and their important and varied life lessons — especially those of love, respect and maturity that could have done wonders for young married couples — are no longer in the same home? Now that emotional support is only intermittently found through the telephone or emails rather than person-to-person, day-to-day. And, during those relatively rare times when young adults do interact with their parents, do you really think they want to burden them with the woes of their relationships, or the struggles of raising the little ones?

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