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Should mom and dad move in?

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis November 19, 2013 09:11 AM

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One spring day a couple years ago, my dad told sat in my living room and told me he was terrified of winding up in a nursing home.

My parents couldn't afford to move into any of the local assisted living developments they had looked at, which pretty clearly set their entry prices based on what affluent seniors can sell their homes for in the Boston area.

They had sold their condo on the Cape, but had not cleared enough to pay for even the smallest apartment at the least expensive assisted living facility in Eastern Massachusetts.

I pledged to my dad that I would never let him be shunted off to a nursing home - even if it meant moving him and my mother in with me, Karen and our three little ones in our relatively modest Natick fixer-upper.

It never came to that and that's probably a good thing - the only available space was the small, downstairs playroom off the dining room.

We could and would have done it, but it definitely would have been a very tight squeeze.

Instead, I moved my parents, both well into their 80s and increasingly frail, to an apartment in an assisted living complex in Illinois, five minutes from where my older brother lives outside of Chicago.

Real estate is a lot cheaper there and the care they receive in Illinois is as good if not better than anything they could have managed to pay for here.

Needless to say, though, the whole experience was eye opening.

It made me wish that things had been different - that I had a house big enough for multi-generational living - or simply an in-law suite.

Frankly, it is the way most people lived until the 1950s, and, for middle income families in the years ahead, it may be the only realistic way to swing things as parents age and increasingly expensive assisted living remains out of reach for most of us.

The demographics are clearly driving this, with tens of millions of Baby Boomers now entering their retirement years and the surviving members of the Greatest Generation in need of daily support from family and friends.

Writes Sean-in-West Roxbury, a frequent contributor to the comment section of this blog:

I think you'll also find a growing interest in in-law apartments (either attached or not) in the next decade. Not everyone in our parents' generation is well-prepared for retirement, and even if they are, people are finding it more affordable and convenient to go with multi-generational households (another argument for the 4th bedroom or some space that can be used as a bedroom on a semi-permanent basis).

In fact, interest in in-law apartments is rising among local buyers, this Globe piece points out. However, you need some extra space to make an in-law arrangement work, not easy given prices within I-495 but necessary if everyone is to stay sane and relatively happy.

Here's what Erika Hall, a Worcester broker, told the Globe.

I think that lots of people recognize that in order for multigenerational living to be a success there needs to be a sense or privacy so one generation can feel like they can escape from the other.

Well my fallback plan of moving mom and dad into the playroom downstairs - the only available space in my house - gets a failing grade on that account.

Are you ready if mom and dad need to move in?

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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