Grandparents at home

Victoria Field writes.

In the Research Digest, Emma Young describes a study which suggests that grandparents moving into a family home may have ‘undesirable outcomes’ (September issue). She does point out that the participants were all ‘American’ (sic) but still implies that there is something unusual about children growing up with older relatives. This may be the case in post-industrial countries in Northern Europe and North America but the most cursory look at the rest of the world (see for example the UN report Household Size and Composition Around the World 2017) shows that multi-generational family life is the norm for the majority of people on our planet.

The study does report that participants growing up with an elderly person were ‘less anxious about their own aging’. The convoluted explanation using cognitive dissonance suggests that those participants are reducing their ‘discomfort at the idea of becoming older’ by telling themselves ‘that their aging outcomes will be different’. Again, in many cultures of the world, aging is not automatically a concern for anxiety and older people are considered repositories of wisdom as well as valued citizens (as powerfully described in the popular text ‘The Warmth of the Heart Prevents Your Body from Rusting’ by French clinical psychologist Marie de Hennezel).

Perhaps there are ‘undesirable outcomes’ to living in a society that automatically resists the fact that people age and would rather they did it away from home.

Victoria Field
Writer and Poetry Therapist
[email protected]

Image: Family in front of their hut, Transkei, South Africa

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