‘The family can come to us next year – it’s our turn’. Or ‘We’ll do the same next year.’
How many of us said the above as last year’s family Christmas celebrations were breaking up? What will you be doing this Christmas? Having a good time, I hope. After this year, we all deserve to let our hair down a little.
What restrictions will apply? Will they be the same across the country? Will there be relaxations just to permit family gatherings over the few days either side of Christmas? When things change so rapidly will you need to have contingency plans in place?
A recent survey found that 20% of the UK population live within one mile of their childhood home. Also 51% who believe they are in their ‘forever home’ i.e. they have no intention of moving again, live within 37 miles of their childhood home.
If the family all live in close proximity it may be possible for the family to see each other, exchange gifts and pleasantries even if they have to retreat to their own homes. You can imagine family ‘control freaks’ creating rotas so that everyone gets to see each other without breaching the regulations. In such a family I would not like to be the one who, through poor time-keeping, disrupts the rota.
As a child I remember seeing some of my father’s family on Christmas morning before getting the bus to my grandparents on my mother’s side, for a late Christmas dinner and the excitement of sleeping on the floor with other cousins at their house. London buses operated until 4pm on Christmas Day in those times.
On Boxing Day, we would travel by Underground to my other grandparent’s house. At that time, I cannot recall a relative that did not live within a few miles from me and all were in easy reach using public transport. Today my relatives are spread all across the country.
This Christmas for many could bring about much soul searching. The most obvious being, should we comply with the rules? The temptation not to is understandable and in many cases will be great.
This could lead to the question, ‘Are we living in the right place?’ being asked. ‘What if Mum or Dad become ill or disabled, how would we look after them? Should we try to move them closer to us where we can keep an eye out for them? Should we move closer to them?’
How many of the 51% will begin to doubt they are in their forever home?
Many families have seen a lot less of each other during 2020. Also, a lot of people have learned how to work efficiently from home. Instead of a 20-mile daily commute, a future work pattern could be to be at home on Monday, followed by a 100-mile journey to the office in the evening.
Using a two-night hotel stay, work at the office on Tuesday and Wednesday, before returning home to work there for the rest of the week. Moving further away from the office may enable a larger home to be purchased that is more suitable to a couple who are home working.
What of a retired couple? Would they be prepared to move any distance? Especially if they are part of the 20% who still live within a mile of their childhood home?
There may be an emotional desire to be closer to their children and grandchildren but will that emotional pull be strong enough?
It could become more complicated. Moving closer to one child’s family could mean moving further away from another. The above assumes that the employment prospects of the children are secure. What if they are not? Will the children be looking for help from Mum and Dad while they reinvent themselves for the employment market?
Many uncertainties will be coming to a head this Christmas and will begin to be spoken about. Every family will be facing different issues and need different solutions. The Bank of Mum and Dad (BOMAD) may be called upon to enable solutions to be delivered. 2021 could see many families making changes to their lifestyles which they would not have even thought about 12 months ago.
I wonder what the numbers living closer to, or further away, from their childhood home will be in several years’ time? Whatever individuals decide, many will be turning to BOMAD bring about some interesting conversations over the Christmas period, and potentially a very busy time for those who are advising in the later life market.
Bob Champion is chairman of the Air Later Life Academy