Christmas Day has always been a great time for families to celebrate the year that's been and spend some quality time together.

Now new research has shown that Christmas 2020 could have additional importance, with parents and children now more likely to use the day to discuss the future and retirement planning.

The research by retirement living provider Stockland has found that, because of COVID-19, Australians aged over 55 are now increasingly wanting to retire near their family.

At the same time, adult children are now more likely to worry about their parents’ safety and security.

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It all adds up to the likelihood that Christmas Day, and the broader Christmas-New Year break, will be a time that many children and parents use to discuss what the future may hold, including potential housing, lifestyle or retirement changes.

Parents wanting to move closer to their children as a result of COVID-19

The research found that Australians aged over 55 have become significantly more aware of their own vulnerability and more conscious of their health and wellbeing, as a result of the pandemic.

This has led to 57 per cent of soon-to-be retirees to think more about their retirement plans and 45 per cent to re-evaluate where they want to live in their later years. 

The survey found 66 per cent of survey respondents said being close to their family had now become the most important factor in retirement. This was a higher result than financial independence (64 per cent) or safety (62 per cent).

This findings indicates that multi-generational housing such as granny flats and duplexes would appear to have a strong post-COVID future. They also show that Christmas is likely to be a key period for children and their parents to discuss retirement housing options.

In addition, it aligns with the findings from a report prepared by Downsizing.com.au which found that downsizers are now more willing to move location, with being close to family a key reason for making this move.

Children worrying more about their parents as a result of COVID-19

At the same time, the survey found that 42 per cent of adult children now feel closer to their parents and 63 per cent are making more of an effort to stay in touch.

Overall, one in five Australians feels that their relationships with the parents and family have improved since the onset of COVID-19.

The survey also found that retirement village residents were significantly less likely to worry and more likely to feel optimistic, positive and feel safe.

Kirrily Lord, General Manager of Stockland Retirement Living Communities, said: “With people placing a greater focus on wellbeing, safety and health recently, there has been a shift in the way older Australians are thinking about their futures and priorities.”

“There has been more of an emphasis placed on connection with community, safety, proximity to healthcare, services and shops, and the ability to see loved ones.

“We’re also seeing more Australians play an active role in supporting their parents’ retirement decisions in order to help safeguard their health, independence and connectedness.

“It seems that adult children are now looking out for their parents more, just as their parents traditionally have looked out for them.” 

Family priorities have changed: psychologist

Commenting on the findings, Melbourne-based psychologist Dr Sarah Cotton said: “The Stockland research reflects the impact of the pandemic on Australians' sense of connection and their life priorities.”

“Spending months apart from loved ones has reinforced the importance of family and for Australians to consciously and proactively keep in touch, especially with older parents.”

“Following the shock of a big event like the pandemic, it’s normal for people to be more concerned about their parents in their retirement and for older Australians to rethink where and how they spend their later years.

“Adult children of retirees are often part of the growing ‘sandwich generation’ - combining care of younger children and older parents with paid work and their own lives.

“It is not surprising that with different priorities and increased pressures, this generation wants to influence their parents’ plans in order to make life more manageable for themselves too.

After so much disconnectedness and uncertainty, the notions of community, connection and wellbeing are as important as ever for older Australians and wider society.”

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