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The Australian Seniors Series: Empty Nesters

For those of us with children, becoming an ‘empty nester’ is an inevitable step in our lives. And while a significant portion of us (41.1%) are sad to see our kids fly the nest, more than half of us (51.4%) greet this new milestone with happiness. No matter our initial reaction, most of us end up embracing the new-found freedom that being an empty nester brings.

The Empty Nesters report is the fourteenth instalment of The Australian Seniors Series, an ongoing national study investigating the shifting attitudes and concerns affecting Australia’s over 50s. This chapter explores the emotional, financial and social impacts on Australian seniors after their children leave home.

Feeling upset when children leave home is more common for the women among us, who are more likely to see our children moving out of home as a sad occurrence compared with our male counterparts (49.4% vs 31.4%). But while there are definitely downsides to becoming empty nesters, like missing our children being around the house (60.0%), having less frequent contact (58.9%) and worrying about how they are doing (56.0%), most of us are finding the positive elements.

Changes around the house are big positives, and the best thing about our children moving out of home is having the place to ourselves (58.1%), while more than two in five of us think it’s having a quieter (42.6%) and cleaner (41.4%) home. We’re also loving the extra time at our disposal now that our kids have left home (74.2%), while similar portions say our financial position has changed for the better (67.8%) and that we have felt a new sense of freedom (62.5%).

Many of us are using the extra time on our hands to enjoy our hobbies and interests, both old and new. Arts and crafts and community service are the top new hobbies or interests we’re taking up, along with gardening and travelling.

We’re finding the time to exercise more (41.3%), with almost one in three (28.2%) of us taking up a sport or implementing a new exercise regime after our children fly the nest. Walking, going to the gym and golfing are proving to be our favourites, followed by swimming and yoga.

Our social lives are also booming! Almost half of us report spending more time socialising with friends (47.0%) and eating out (46.9%), while close to a third (31.2%) say we’re going to the movies more, and over a quarter (26.3%) are looking after our appearances more.

We’re also exploring the world more. The vast majority of us empty nesters (92.3%) are travelling more frequently, and for longer periods of time (72.5%) than when our children were around.

The extra space is also coming in handy. Almost a third of us (30.4%) have turned our children’s rooms into space where we can indulge our hobbies or interests – and some (15.3%) of us are even making a little money on the side! This extra money comes from offering our services on a freelance basis and selling our collectibles and creations.

Empty Nesters [infographic]

When it comes to finances, close to seven in ten (69.5%) of us say we have more disposable income now that our children have moved out of home, and we’re spending more money on ourselves (52.2%) and feeling less guilty about it (56.0%).

Of course, this doesn’t mean we don’t want our children to come home every once in a while! Most of us empty nesters are delighted to see our children for the Christmas holidays (87.1%).

We’d also be happy to welcome our children back into the family home for a longer period of time, with almost a third (32.3%) of us having already done this. More than two-thirds (67.2%) of us ‘former empty nesters’ say we were happy when their children moved back home. In fact, one in five (20.9%) of us say our relationship with our children improved after they moved back in!

While becoming an empty nester can be a time of mixed feelings, we’re finding that there are many positives! We’re embracing the new-found sense of freedom that comes with our children leaving home wholeheartedly – but we’re always happy to welcome them back to the family home with open arms, whether it’s just for the holidays or on a more permanent basis.

Stay tuned for the next chapter of the Australian Seniors Series! A report for seniors, by Seniors.


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Empty Nesters Full Report [pdf]