Becoming an empty nester can bring mixed feelings for seniors as their grown-up children leave home. They may experience a sense of loss, especially if they no longer work and find themselves with more free time on their hands. But they may also embrace a newfound sense of freedom the opportunity affords them.
A recent survey released by the Australian Seniors Insurance Agency found just over half of the seniors surveyed were happy after their children first left home, one in four admitted they were sad, with male seniors more likely to be happy and female seniors more likely to be sad about the development.
Regardless of the initial reaction, the survey found most seniors eventually embraced their empty nester status, with nearly three-quarters enjoying the extra time at their disposal, while more than two-thirds of respondents said their financial position changed for the better and more than three in five felt a new sense of freedom once their kids moved out.
Old interests, social events and friendships that were put on the back burner while they were busy with the family may be rekindled, or seniors may take up entirely new hobbies with their extra time and, in many cases, improved financial situation.
After their children left home, a significant proportion of seniors surveyed said they spent more time on their hobbies and interests including sports, joining clubs or societies, socialising with friends, eating out, getting a pet or undergoing further study, mostly in the arts and humanities.
They also appeared to be taking advantage of the extra space in their homes, with three in ten saying they had turned their children's rooms into space where they could indulge in their hobbies or interests.
Among these seniors, some 15.3 per cent said they gained financial benefit from this change, primarily through offering their services on a freelance basis or selling their collectibles and creations, earning an average of $2,584 in the previous 12 months from indulging in their hobbies/interests.
Australian Seniors Insurance Agency spokesperson, Simon Hovell, said the research suggested many Australian seniors were indeed looking on the bright side when it came time for their children to leave home.
"Seniors are quick to embrace new opportunities, and many of them are proving this by approaching their empty nests with entrepreneurial flair," he said. "We found that Australian seniors who have turned their children's rooms into either space for short-term accommodation or a place to indulge their hobbies and interests are earning an incredible combined total of $1.1 million each year."
This was not the case for all seniors, Mr Hovell said, adding that a third experienced 'boomerang children' who left home but ended up moving back in, often because of financial reasons or relationship breakdowns.
More than two-thirds of former empty nesters said they felt happy when their children moved back home while close to a quarter said they felt relieved. But one in seven claimed they were stressed and one in ten said they were frustrated when their children moved back.
"Parents want the best for their kids and are likely to welcome their 'boomerang children' back into the family home," Mr Hovell said. "This can force seniors to make sacrifices that often go unnoticed by the returning child. However, as long as they're willing to help out around the home and are respectful of their parents, there's no reason why seniors and their adult children can't continue to live together happily".