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Boomerang boomers: the over-50s moving back in with their parents

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The Covid pandemic has led to growing numbers of baby boomers in Britain moving back in with their elderly parents, experts have said.

The reasons are varied, from the positive grown-up children ensuring their parents had care and company during lockdowns to the negative, including financial and relationship breakdowns.

“The pandemic has dramatically changed the way many of us are living,” said Stuart Lewis, the founder of Rest Less, a digital community for people aged 50 and older. “A number of our members have moved back in with their parents during the pandemic.”

For many, the return home has been a positive experience. Emma Egan, a 56-year-old teacher from New Malden, said moving in with her parents after her marriage broke up was a “blessing”.

View image in fullscreen‘Great times’: Emma Egan with her parents

“We spent many great times together during lockdown,” she said. “I now live at home purely because I really enjoy living with them. When I do move out, I will miss them terribly. They are my friends as well as my parents, and they are the coolest people I know.”

Jim Jackson says moving back home turned out to be a positive experience. The creative director, 61, and his wife moved back into his parents’ house after their children left home and he lost his job.

“Knowing that finding a new job at the age of 60 was not going to be easy, we decided that the best plan was to sell our home to be free of our mortgage and move into my parents’ basement,” he said.

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“It turned out to be a great experience. I was proud to say that I had made it full circle and enjoyed living in my parents’ basement,” he said. “The time without the pressure of homeownership allowed me to work full-time on finding a new job. That new job allowed us to buy a new home of our own, only 10 minutes from my newly widowed mother.”

Financial concerns are a key reason for older people moving back home: more than 355,000 people aged 50 and older are unemployed, with 31,000 having been made redundant between May and July alone, according to the Office for National Statistics.

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With rising inflation and increasing energy bills on the horizon, the idea of sharing the costs of living could also be attractive to many of the 360,000 people aged 55 and over still on furlough at the end of July, who risk being locked out of employment because of ageism if they are made redundant now the scheme has ended.

Lance Rumbolt, a 54-year-old IT consultant, moved into his mother’s house after his relationship broke down during the pandemic and he fell into debt.

The arrangement suits them both. “My mum loves it because my kids come over all the time, and she loves seeing them so regularly. I do long for my own space, though, and now living at home has enabled me to clear my debts, I plan to move out next year,” he said.

Polly Neate, the chief executive of Shelter, the homelessness and housing charity, said falling incomes – whether through furlough, job losses or relationship breakdowns – had left some older people “barely hanging on to their homes during the pandemic”.

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“Older people find it especially difficult to escape homelessness because they can face long-term unemployment,” she said. “The rising cost of living and cuts to universal credit are only making this harder.”

View image in fullscreenIan O’Sullivan and his father, 91, and mother, 88

For Ian O’Sullivan, 56, a librarian who moved back with his parents after the breakup of his marriage, the experience has been bittersweet.

“Renting a flat on my salary was not an option, so I was very fortunate that my parents had space for me. When the pandemic hit, I was put on full furlough. This turned out to be advantageous as it meant I could look after my parents and ensure they could remain fully isolated,” he said.

“But things changed dramatically as the lockdown progressed. The lack of exercise had an adverse effect on them and by the end of the final lockdown, it was apparent they needed so much help that I can’t leave here now.

“What started out as a temporary arrangement has become a permanent one. The only comfort I have is that at least I have been able to help my parents by living with them.”