Adult children might just be the ones to help their retired parents revitalize their lives. Here are some stories:

Roxanne, a co-owner of a boutique PR firm, introduced me to her mother who is now her Woman Friday. She had just helped out with the refreshments and arrangements for a photo shoot. As her mother said to me, "Working for my daughter has added 10 years to my life."

And Niki a jewelry designer hired her mother to work in her jewelry store three days a week. Niki's mother shared this with me, "I love it. I have a place to go, a purpose in life, and it has added zest to my life."

Sean, a client developer for a major marketing company, lives in a tree house on his mother's property in Oregon. He hires his mother to help him with PR, uses her as a proofreader and hires her to edit all of his writing.

Daniel, a computer consultant, took charge when his father retired from his carpet cleaning business. Daniel convinced his father to learn about computers. Now they make every house call together. Daniel's father handles the books, makes the appointments and once again feels useful.

Much of the literature on intergenerational relationships focuses on problems-- adult children caring for aging parents; adult children assuming parental roles; adult children using TV cameras and other devices to check that Mom or Dad are taking their pills.

But I see another purpose--solidifying adult children and their parents as colleagues in their adult years. Psychologists talk about asymmetry of investment-originally, parents invest more in children when children are young and then as one person said, "the womb turns" and adult children start to lead the way.

Is this a trend? Not yet but it has the potential to catch on. This is good for both generations. The payoffs for the adult child include having a "trusted" employee; the payoffs for the parent include giving them a new lease on life, a place to go, and a purpose.

Professor Emerita, University of Maryland and Author of
Revitalizing Retirement: Reshaping Identity, Relationships and Purpose
Copyright, 2010

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