A growing number of parents in their 50s and 60s are finding themselves sharing their home and retirement with grown-up children.
Hundreds of thousands of young people – they are referred to officially as millennials – according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS) are living in adolescent limbo and expect to be there into their 30s.
Almost 100,000 of them, back living with their parents, think they will never move out. And it’s all down to high house prices, poor wages and student debt.
There is the other category of parents who never entirely get over the fact their offspring have left home never to return, except on holiday.
That’s as painful sometimes as the other situation is stressful. I imagine that many young people who have to return to the family home as they have no means of supporting themselves must soon lose confidence and motivation. The situation is expected to get much worse with another half a million living with parents in the next decade.
ONS suggests this ‘‘failure to launch’’ phenomenon means more than a million young adults are still in their childhood bedrooms – and 20 per cent of them see inheriting their parents’ home as their best chance of owning property.
Having grown up in an era when work was plentiful, rents affordable (just about on a junior journalist’s salary), and no-one had the burden of paying back student loans, this new situation is bound to be creating havoc in many households.
It affects all kinds of plans parents may have made, such as downsizing, or even returning to part-time work themselves.
Those on limited pensions could face financial hardship if they have to feed, clothe and house a grown up child, old enough to work, but who can’t find a job paying a decent wage.
With first time home buyers facing average house prices of £140,000 or rentals costs of £300 a month, unless parental funding is available to set them on their way, the young face real difficulties particularly if they have never had to contribute to living in the family home after getting that first job.
The average adolescent today has been brought up in the sort of relative luxury my generation never had.
At home they will most likely have had their own bedroom, with a television installed, a wardrobe full of clothes and few demands made upon them to contribute in any way such as making a meal or house cleaning.
They will emerge into the world of work with high expectations of their worth only to find that it’s a really tough world out there and hard work is the only way to survive. Modern parenting methods, perhaps, will have failed them.
My generation was better prepared for the world of work. I came from a large family, living in a small house, where the only time you had a bed to yourself was if you were sick. We were expected to weed the vegetable garden and the potato plot, wash up after meals, help with the annual spring clean and collect the shopping by bike.
I used to dream of sharing a flat with other girls where I could slum it a bit. When I did get a space in a communal flat my mother’s mantra was so drummed into me I was the one who cleaned for Ireland.
I can’t imagine that parents really want their children back home on a full-time basis and they may not necessarily see it as a failure on their own part. Yet every parent wants their child to be successful and a son or daughter languishing at home, motivation draining away from them, anger building up, represents a real problem.
The other extreme is my sadness at not seeing my children on a regular basis as they live outside the country. But would I want them home on a full-time basis, living in my space? I don’t think so.