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With a Little Help From Older Parents


Older Canadians provide significant financial assistance primarily to adult children but also to their grandchildren throughout life, according to a new study.

The research, led by McMaster professor Jenny Ploeg, studied 138 persons aged 55 years and older from across Canada. Participants were well educated and had above average incomes. The majority was retired (85%).

Researchers found parents were motivated by love for their children and a commitment to family. They provided financial assistance to help children through important life events – wedding expenses, establishing a business, purchasing a home or car, and to help them rebuild their lives after a setback – loss of a job, illness, disability, debt, or divorce.

However, assistance was provided only when required, and as a temporary measure, “to give them a needed break from stress.” Where the need proved to be ongoing, it sometimes became a drain on parent’s resources. “My savings were intended to look after me in my senior years but I can see no end to the needs of family,” one 79-year-old mother said.

The assistance to grandchildren took the form of educational fund investments and support with living expenses. Some provided money for holidays and plane tickets.

The study was reported in the Canadian Journal on Aging (2004). Volume 23, Supplement 1.

“I was so much older then. I’m younger than that now.” – Bob Dylan