Although for some seniors moving into a granny-flat on their children’s property can prove beneficial, in many cases there are disadvantages – some being as follows:
The Granny-flat trap – You convince yourself that your son-in-law has now improved / matured? You even decide that perhaps he wasn’t really so bad after all? Perhaps the relationship problems were your fault? So full of hope, deciding that it will now work out, you move in with them. Everything goes well for a few weeks until you find the manner in which he treats your daughter, or grandchildren, distressful. But can you do anything about it? No!… It’s too late! You have by now invested your limited funds in his property; you are now in the Granny-flat trap!
If you didn’t get along with your children when they were younger, moving near them decades later, seldom makes it better. And your children may not really want you to be that close; their offer may have been prompted by guilt or pity (Oh!… and if you notice contractors erecting an electric fence between the granny flat and the main house … you will know that this security precaution is not just for burglars!)
Most women start off with the view that living with their grandchildren is utopian. But perhaps they have never experienced prolonged exposure to grandchildren (to say nothing of other adult family members!) – it is totally different to occasional visits. It can be a stressful experience from which you may just emerge feeling that you have been used. The best thing about grandchildren is that when you start to feel jaded, you can give them back – however, living on their property is a whole new ball game! Your misplaced belief that you ought to pay the family back for accommodating you, coupled with persistent grandchildren, can tax even your diminishing patience (as well as your limited financial resources).
The skivvy scenario
Once you have settled into your new abode, you may discover (too late) that the majority of time spent with your family involves you assuming the menial roles of babysitter, cook, domestic servant and sometimes even taxi, as you ferry grandchildren to and from school; this while your children go clubbing, visiting friends, and embarking on holidays. Do I hear you say… “but doing all those things will be fun!”
No it won’t – or at best only for a while, thereafter the daily errands and tasks might turn into a sentence of unsought servitude.
Hard labour – a sentence of servitude?
There are often provisos accompanying children’s invitations to move in with
Them; normally along the lines of, help us to fund building the Granny-flat
and then move in with us. Perhaps your son-in-law, under the pretence of assisting you, is actually trying to augment his capital (literally at your expense!). And what if there is an attempted hijacking or armed robbery… can you guarantee that the next day they wouldn’t be booking air tickets to the United Kingdom? And in spite of their placatory promises of sending for you later, I wouldn’t hold my breath. So where do you stay, when the Granny-flat in which you have invested your meagre funds is sold from under you? You may very well lose your retirement nest egg… at a stage in life where it would be difficult – if not impossible to recover.
Your move to children could result in your being isolated from your support group; your friends and your church. In respect of the latter, horror upon horrors, you may even discover that whilst you, for the previous 50 years had attended the local Methodist church, in your children’s church, instead of Wesley hymns – they sing choruses in which there are only four lines which are repeated ad nauseam and the rhyme and meter is so inept as to cause the leading singer, to regularly leave out the first word, in order to fit them in! And whilst you used to enjoy the cathedral like resonance of Handel played on majestic organs, you now have to tolerate the unimaginative discordant voice, of a guitar wielding Minister, who obviously cannot decide whether he should be the lead singer for the Rolling Stones or Black Sabbath; who seems fixated by volume settings which would shatter any self-respecting communion chalice.
Which child to live with?
Take the scenario where one daughter lives in Sandton, the other in Cape Town, and a third in the United Kingdom. And they all invite you to come and live with them, which invitation would you accept? Strangely the wealthier you are and the poorer they are – the more likely you are to receive multiple
invitations. I am not saying that it is only due to the inheritance factor, but it does pose a difficult choice, as no matter which one you choose – two others are likely to be hurt; however if you are really poor you are unlikely to be faced by this dilemma.
Ambitious children or sons-in-law, who in spite of promising that they will never move from the property, to which they have invited you to relocate, often get itchy feet; get a job offer that they can’t refuse. Where then does that leave you? When they up and leave – you could be up the creek without a paddle!
What to do?
If you do decide to downsize – remember … there is little more important than independence… so try to keep yours at all costs! Rather consider – relocating to a retirement village; sharing a house with a friend (a sort of senior commune? But here compatibility is paramount. You need to ensure that living together does not ruin a friendship!), or moving into a gated community. Remember security is the main motive for moving. The 8% of the over 80’s who might require frail care can purchase it when, and if, a need arises; when the time comes – but security cannot be purchased – it needs to be lived!
The older you are, the more decisions taken become a one-way street, from which it is difficult to reverse!