Think Seniors are the Ones Moving Closer to Their Kids? Not Quite, Study Says

There’s a perception held by many that, as people age, they move closer to wherever their children and families are, but new research published in the journal Research on Aging says it’s actually the other way around: most of the time, adult children end up moving to be closer to their aging parents.

As people get older, location becomes an important indicator of family members’ ability to provide assistance, the researchers note. Using data tracking moves from the 2000-2004 Health and Retirement Study, lead authors Yiduo Zhang, Michal Engleman, and Emily M. Agree found that the moving closer process is a “collective” adjustment.

“Family members collectively adjust intergenerational proximity to facilitate mutual support,” they write. “Despite the common assumption that older parents move closer to their children to receive assistance, more than two-thirds of all proximity-enhancing moves are made by the adult children.”


However, considering that most people living in developed countries are facing what’s being called “extreme longevity”—which for some might translate into a 30-year retirement, according to national insurance giant Nationwide—there’s a higher probability that older parents will move closer to their children. Conversely, parents’ anticipated longevity does not influence adult children’s moving decisions, according to the researchers. 

Aging parents are less likely to move closer to their adult children if they have long-term care insurance, the researchers found, because “it shows potentially less need for family care,” Engelman is quoted as saying in a New York Times article. “If they need more help, they’ll be able to get it.” Other reasons that heighten the probability of staying put include homeownership or long-term roots in a community.

Access the full study here


Written by Alyssa Gerace