Updated: Mar 1
The modern family often has elderly parents living separately from their adulst children. Which is a change from from traditional multi-generational family structure where they live together under one roof.
These changes have continued over many years and are attributed to several reasons and what can be typically called "the breakdown of the traditional family" unit.
One key cause of this change is the increased mobility in society.
Mobility of society.
Historically, folk lived in the same town or village for their entire lives, this made it much easier for families to stay living closely together.
With improvements in transportation and communication technologies, it's easier to be more mobile, and move to new locations for economical reasons, work patterns or other reasons for example better schools or local facilities.
Attitudes towards marriage and family.
Another key reason of the breakdown of the traditional large family living under one roof or in one place is a dramatic change in attitudes towards marriage and family, conversely looking at religions like the Mormon way of life, they continue to live together in multi-generational large families an usually under one roof.
With more people living together without being "legally" married and with the general acceptance of LBGT relationships, coupled with people following their own spiritual path without the group pressure to confirm to some ridged religious doctrines.
It's easier to adult children to move away from their place of birth and live an independent and happy life leaving the need to be seen to follow the same religion as their neighbours.
As society has become more about the individual i.e. individualistic, folk have become more focused on achieving their own goals and ambitions and less interested in putting traditional family structures and the needs of parents first. This has led to smaller families with a greater emphasis on the rights of individuals and their autonomy.
The state welfare system has contributed to this change. In many countries, the state, rightly has taken a greater role in providing support in many ways to the elderly, particularly the more vulnerable elderly, this has resulted in reducing the need for families to feel pressure to provide direct care for their aging parents or elderly relatives.
In 2023 post COVID, the state is finding it harder to financially fund elderly support adequately and the need for families to step in and improve the quality of life and care for their aging parents has increased.
Women in the workforce
Changes in employment patterns have also contributed to the breakdown of the large family unit living in one place, however post COVID era with more folk working from home, and the change in attitude of many employers has increased the ability for both male and female adult children to care for aging relatives.
Over time as more women entered the workforce, less time and resources have been made available for care-giving. and provide care for elderly parents or other relatives.
Wealth creation has made a significant impact on the traditional relationship between children and their elderly parents. historically, adult children's biggest asset was to inherit the family home and other assets from their parents. This therefore gave elderly parents a lot more control and say in the family as they could decide to change their will or worst force their adult children to their home leave.
However, as industries continued to grow and more people could travel, get credit or start their own business , and ultimately create their own wealth rather than rely on inheriting it, the family dynamic or power and relationship has changed.
Because families now no longer need to live in a state of subsistence, with little opportunity for economic mobility, rather than waiting for inheritance, younger generations are able to create their own wealth and build their own homes, and find it easier to follow their own path and direction in life.
In addition, wealth creation has also had an impact on the housing market. As younger generations accumulate wealth, they are better able to purchase their own homes, rather than relying on inheritance.
This has led to an increase in demand for housing, particularly in urban areas where there are more job opportunities. As a result, younger generations may choose to live in different locations than their elderly parents, which can lead to physical separation.
As successive governments create policies to make it easier to obtain houses for first time buyers which include tax breaks for first time buyers as well as easing planning permission for affordable housing as well as influencing lenders to provide credit , the number of new houses being built each year will continue to contribute to the breakdown of the traditional large family unit.
Social attitudes towards aging
It was the expected norm and common for families to help and provide care for their elderly parents, let's be honest there were few alternatives available unless you were wealthy.
However, that profit motive from industry has created new industries and social programs to provide many more "paid" options for elderly care. Thus reducing the need for families to provide personal care for their elderly parents, instead they can outsource this.
Pros and Cons
Overall, the breakdown of the large family unit living in one place can be attributed to several factors, including increasing mobility, changing attitudes towards marriage and family, wealth creation, social attitudes towards aging, housing market, the state welfare system, and changes in employment patterns.
These changes have made it easier for families to live apart, and provided greater opportunities for individuals to follow their own path and create their own wealth, but sometimes taking the easy route is not always the best route.
It's important to recognize the challenges faced by elderly individuals who are separated from families, and just like they did when we were children, we should try and provide as much support and adequate care and attention to their wellbeing both physical and mental, if our parents just fed and clothed us without providing love, life would be completely different for us.
Helping bridge the physical distance between families.
My SOS Family easy-to-use emergency alert service was created for this very reason, it's in the name, it means a family unit created for the protection and support in an SOS (emergency) situation. We know that whilst modern families do live apart for a number of reasons, when it comes to an emergency, they will all come together to support and help.
My SOS Family allows families to remotely support their loved ones and their loved ones feel a sense of belonging when they are given the My SOS Family emergency alert service on their phone.
The reason for this is is not because of the service, but because of the people at the end of the service being people they know and trust, it's really easy to outsource the service to a stranger in a call centre and give them a emergency pendant (telecare device) and let someone else deal with it, with My SOS Family , you are the SOS Family, your telling them you will be there for them when they need it the most.
We can't go back to the golden times of yesteryear but we can use technology and provide loved ones with our time when they need it.
Try the app and keep your family connected when they need it the most :