Older People Give Care More Often Than They Receive It
It's often predicted that the retirement of baby boomers will drain the resources of nations with aging populations. Yet a new study, "The Future of Retirement: The New Old Age," found that older people are much more likely to give care to younger generations than to receive it themselves. The study by HSBC Group, the Oxford Institute of Aging, and Harris Interactive, a survey of 21,000 people in 21 countries and territories, shows that people in their 60s and 70s are financing college educations and first homes for children and grandchildren, helping out with household chores, and even caring for younger, frailer family members.
Financial contributions. Some 44 percent of people in their 60s and 70s have provided financial support to children and 49 percent to grandchildren, usually in the form of gifts and loans, HSBC found. That's a slightly higher rate of support than found among 40- and 50-somethings. "Globally, a higher proportion of older people are giving support to their families than receive it," says Sarah Harper, director of the Oxford Institute of Aging.
In the United States, 54 percent of people in their 60s and 70s provide support to their children, while only 11 percent of 70-somethings receive financial support from a relative or friend. "People are now giving or preparing to give while they are still alive, as opposed to the traditional model where you pass on your wealth when you die," says Kevin Newman, head of personal finance services for HSBC Bank USA.
Adds Geoff Brooks, senior vice president of retirement services at HSBC Bank: "The new culture is spend it with the kids, spend it with the family, and enjoy it together."
Laura Giacomarro, 50, who has been retired for two years, and her husband recently helped both of her adult children (ages 22 and 24) with down payments on houses in Charleston, S.C., and bought each of them their first car. "We sort of got them started, and now they stand on their own financially," Giacomarro says.
Both of her children pay the mortgage on their homes and for their own car insurance. "We did set up college funds for them when they were born, and we were very religious about contributing to them," Giacomarro says. "We didn't go to Disney every year, but their education was paid for, and they did not have to take out loans or struggle with that."
Practical support. Retirees are not just sharing dollars but helping around the house as well. Globally, 39 percent of people in their 60s and 70s provide practical support with cleaning, shopping, cooking, and everyday tasks to their children and 27 percent to their grandchildren, HSBC found. Almost half do so at least once a week. "They have the time, they have the inclination to support their family and society, and they have the health to be able to put this energy back in," Brooks says. "And they feel useful."
In the United States, 27 percent of 70-somethings have provided practical support to a relative or friend, while 19 percent have received it.
Alvena Dingerson Campbell, 75, a retired registered nurse in Ursa, Ill., cooks for both her sons, ages 52 and 46, every day. "I've got rheumatoid arthritis," she says. "But I've got a wheelchair, and I wheel around the kitchen with that."
Some of her five grandchildren and her great-grandchild also make frequent appearances at her farm, where she has lived alone since her husband died. "My grandsons are here to heckle me all the time," Campbell says. "They come in and check to see if I'm in trouble or if I'm going to give 'em trouble."
Giacomarro looks after her son's two children, one 2 years and one 4 months old, on a regular basis. "My daughter-in-law works part time, and I keep them on Friday mornings," she says. "Sometimes I pick them up to come to my house, and sometimes we go to the park."
Personal care. People in their 70s in the United States and abroad are generally not frail and in need of care but actually provide personal care to others. "There's a small percentage of people who are unwell in their retirement years who are receiving the bulk of this support, but by and large that is not the case," Brooks says. Thirteen percent of American 70-somethings have provided personal care like bathing, dressing, and nursing to others, while only 3 percent have received this type of support from relatives and friends.