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Retirement Home or Living with Children?

FRANCES WEST & MAHADEV DESAI debate two lifestyle choices for seniors.

FRANCES WEST is the co-founder of the Atlanta-based All Nations Club (ANC), a social club for people of all nationalities. She lives in an Atlanta retirement home. MAHADEV DESAI is an Atlanta-based freelance writer. He lives in Atlanta with his wife, daughter, son-in-law and grand daughter.
Parents Have a Life Beyond Their Children A Family That Eats and Prays Together Stays Together

When children get married it is time for them to have their own privacy and independence. It is also a time for parents to have their time alone. A retirement community lets seniors live their own life-style while living 
separately from their children. This breeds good relationships between 
children and parents. Visits are enjoyed. Parties and celebrations are delightful. At these times they truly enjoy their togetherness.

A retirement community relieves children of the daily responsibility of 
aging parents, takes away their worry about parents when they are at work.  It is a blessing for parents to feel they are not a burden on their 

A retirement community provides for all the necessities (and luxuries) of 
residents - health clinic, with a nurse on duty, security, dining room with 
balanced meals, exercise classes (also an exercise room), library, gift 
shop, beauty shop, in-house therapist, entertainment.

Transportation is provided for medical appointments, trips to the grocery store, movies, special events in town, cultural events, points of interest, day trips.

While parents feel their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren are the love of their life, they still have a life beyond their children. Older people enjoy being with their peers who relate to their generation.

In a retirement community one need NEVER lonely. While there is privacy in the apartment, a step outside the door is someone who would enjoy a 
conversation . There are game rooms where bridge, rummikub, and other games are enjoyed, a coffee room, lounges where friends meet, make plans and converse.

I have lived at King's Bridge Retirement Community since 1985. Relieved of  most of my responsibilities, these twenty one years have been some of the 
most rewarding, stimulating, productive and enriching times of my life.

A majority of Indians are accustomed to living in joint families. It is quite normal to find three generations of family members living under one roof. In cases where older parents arrive from abroad in a new country, they are less likely to be intimidated by unfamiliar surroundings if they move in with their grown up children, than living alone in a retirement community. More so, where the older parents have severe health or language problems. 

Indians have strong value system. Senior parents feel duty bound to care for their children and grand children regardless of their age. Conversely, grown up children consider it their moral duty to look after their aged parents. Senior parents can be of great help to their grown up and working sons or daughters by performing household chores and lend a helping hand in running family businesses. They can also look after their grandchildren by driving them to school, picking them up after school, helping them with homework, and teaching them about family customs, traditions, culture etc. There would be no need for baby sitters and children would not be ‘latch-key’ children, if their grandparents look after them. 

It is said that family that eats together and prays together stays together. This bond is further cemented by celebrating family member’s birthdays, academic or professional achievements, anniversaries, etc.This way the family can have a deep meaningful time together. A family where seniors and their children have a sense of obligation and commitment to the family, in service to one another can live in peace and harmony. 

Not only is it economically sound to live together but also mutually beneficial to all concerned. Older parents can contribute either in cash or kind and thus avoid being a burden on their children. Where living accommodation is not spacious, privacy and independence can be a problem but this too can be overcome with understanding, respect and adjustment. In short, in my opinion, life in a retirement community, despite all comforts and amenities can be impersonal and lacking in family love and warmth. 

On a personal note, both my wife and I are seniors. We live with our son-in-law, daughter and an eleven year old grand-daughter. We are fortunate to live in a spacious house, so we have both space and privacy. We can drive, so transport is not a problem. My wife works as a cashier whereas I am now retired. I keep fairly busy running errands for the family, and indulging in my passion of reading and writing as a freelance journalist. We try and help with household chores and raising our granddaughter. We participate in community and social events-either on our own or together. The same goes for vacations. I feel truly blessed as by living together under one roof, I am able to live a contented and fulfilling life. 

What do you think?
Please send us your responses at


April:  Raising Preschoolers

February:  The Real Worth of Two Cents

January:  It's a Material World

December:  'Tis the Season to Give

August 16th  issue:  Are Indian Americans also South Asian Americans?

July 1st issue:  Bollywood Stereotypes & The Image of the Indian American

June 1st issue: Is The Outsourcing Issue Overblown?

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