Welcome Back, Kids

Her voice was calm, reassuring. She never wavered in her soft, sweet tone. Her patience was made in heaven.

She was speaking to her elderly mother who obviously suffers from a condition of the aging process that makes her forget, even something spoken to her just minutes prior. The daughter gently reassured her mother each time she repeated the questions.

My eyes welled with tears for both of them. As adult children it is a new challenge for us to be the caretakers of the people who raised us. The turn of events is not always easy for everyone involved but it is how life evolves.

Americans, for various reasons, have some odd views about raising kids and respecting the elderly.

I don’t know why it is in this country that popular sentiment is to have children and then get them out of your house as quickly as you can.

Parents who don’t put the boot to their child’s rear end at 18 and show them the door are considered “helicopter parents” for hovering over their child’s life.

As for our parents, we often fail to realize that they were right about a lot of things they preached to us until we are old enough to stand in the shoes they wore. How many of us, as teenagers, vowed never to be like our parents but find ourselves repeating their mantras later in life?

Until the end of World War II, multiple generations living under the same roof was quite the norm. But that generation of veterans was greeted with a prosperous future that lent itself to being on their own after the war. Jobs and the housing market were booming as young couples moved to the suburbs to raise their own families.

By the 1980s, the number of multi-generational families in the U.S. dropped to its lowest level to 12.1 percent.

Today that figure is climbing by leaps and bounds due to economic conditions for young and old alike.

Older folks may have lost pension dollars in the stock market or need medical supervision best provided in the family home setting.

Meanwhile, younger people may have experienced a lack of full-time jobs that pay enough to allow them to live on their own or a loss of jobs, again due to economic conditions.

As a result, there are a lot more of us declaring “I’m back!” Our old room doesn’t look so bad and having Mom and Dad move in has its benefits for working parents.

When I was a kid I can recall a few neighbors who had two or three generations living under one roof. Sometimes a downstairs parlor was transformed into a bedroom for an aging grandparent. People didn’t question their role in the household. It was clearly defined by each generation and usually everyone benefited from the arrangement.

History truly does repeat itself and we need to be ready. Whether it’s painting a bedroom or adding handrails in the bathroom, it’s a small price to pay for doing the right thing.

Heather Ziegler can be reached via e-mail at hziegler@theintelligencer.net.