My Retirement Plan is You – Adult Children Giving Back to Their Parents in Retirement

Rebecca Danigelis, an immigrant from England, first visited the YWCA on Clarendon Street in Boston in 1978, after she attended rape counseling sessions. Five years later, she moved into a low-income apartment there with her two young sons, and eventually was hired as the head housekeeper of the Y’s new hotel on the sixth and seventh floors.

After 38 years of living and working in the same place, at the age of 75, she was let go without cause — and given a year to move out. Rebecca had to rebuild her life after being fired with no savings.

Danigelis felt devastated and lost until her son, Sian-Pierre Regis, decided to help her embrace the adventures that she longed to do but for which she never had the time. He took her on a bucket-list adventure to reclaim her life. The things that were on the top of Danigelis’ list included activities and places that she used to discuss with hotel patrons, such as milking a cow in Vermont, skydiving in Hawaii, walking the Boston Marathon route, taking a hip-hop class with a Hamilton dancer, reuniting with her estranged daughter, baking a cake with her granddaughter, and joining Instagram. After a whirlwind adventure checking off all of the items on her list, Regis’ mother eventually moved in with him and his roommates in New York City, as she couldn’t afford a place of her own.

Exploring Important Issues for Aging Parents

To explore the issues of financial responsibility for aging parents, ageism in the workplace, and giving back to parents who gave everything to their children, Regis turned the bucket list journey into a film and called the documentary, “Duty Free.” The film was shown across the country and for the first time on PBS last night, and to Regis, it was a “gift to his mother.”

The film was nominated for an IDA Documentary Award and Regis was named to the Doc NYC/HBO Documentary Films list of 40 Under 40 (emerging documentary makers). On Saturday, Nov. 20, Regis and his mom ran #BucketListDay, where people signed up for free one-hour virtual workshops ranging from a hip hop dance class to a meditation class. Danigelis is also now the new face of Dr. Scholl’s Arthritis Pain Reliever and mother and son are working to get legislation passed protecting older job applicants from age discrimination.

Regis and his mother’s four-year journey is compressed into just 70 minutes for the documentary. It shows how fulfilling spending more time with your parents can actually be, and also touches on the challenges of aging in America.

Helping Senior Loved Ones When They Don’t Have Enough Money to Retire

When Sian-Pierre Regis was asked about his film, he said, “(T)his is a film that’s deeply about love, particularly between a mom and a son, and exploring our connection and my mom’s past and me learning about that. But it also surfaces the question of what we’ll do with the generation of twenty-five million Americans who don’t have enough money to get them through retirement age. Why is it okay to offhandedly make comments about people that you don’t know because of their age? Hopefully at the end, I think people realize that they, A, inevitably will be caregivers at some point in their lives, and B, realize that we are at this point in this country where something needs to be done. We have more people that are over sixty-five than are under eighteen. And that generation is going to need help. They are living longer on less money. How are we going to do it? What are the small acts of care that we can do as young people, particularly to make sure that this great generation continues to live with dignity?”

Regis is a new Encore Public Voices Fellow, and was selected as a 2020 Next Avenue Influencer in Aging for his passion about intergenerational connection and reducing ageist stereotypes. Danigelis, now 80, and Regis have become advocates for older workers. In early October, they appeared virtually with the director-general of the World Health Organization, who introduced a WHO screening of “Duty Free” and noted the need to change the “negative narrative around age and aging.” Later that month, they went to Washington D.C. to meet with the congresswoman behind a bill that would prohibit employers from using age to classify or limit job applicants.

Moving Your Parents into Your Home

As the film addresses, there has been a resurgence of multigenerational housing in the past several years, when adults from at least two generations share the same home. After declining to its lowest point in 1980, multigenerational housing is now close to its 1950 peak, representing 20% of the total American population, according to another Pew analysis. In addition, Pew researchers found that older adults were also significantly more likely to be living with their grown children in recent years than they were in the 1990s.

Georgia Lee Hussey, a financial planner in Portland, Oregon, who has clients across the country believes that this trend will continue. She says,“(m)ost of my clients have at least one parent that needs to be factored into their financial plan. What’s tricky is that for some families, it can be unexpected. . . since people over 60 are often uncomfortable talking about their finances, and ashamed to ask their children for help.”

Other Affordable Housing Options for Seniors

Senior housing can be extremely expensive, leaving seniors with no option but to spend the majority of their retirement savings on rent or live with their adult children. Luckily, there are also a couple affordable housing programs that can help you find an affordable place to reside for yourself or a loved one. Two affordable housing programs for seniors, through HUD, include the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) and Section 202 Supportive Housing Program, a program specifically for seniors over the age of 62.

For seniors who need care and assistance, my article on the subject describes different housing and care options available to seniors today. Unfortunately, these are not considered to be affordable housing options. In another article, we discussed Non-Traditional Living Options for Seniors, such as villages, co-housing, NORCs, and niche communities.

Plan for Future Care for a Loved One

Most seniors will want to stay in their home for as long as possible. However, if a loved one cannot live independently, or with you, and he or she is showing signs that living alone is a strain, it may be time to consider other options.

Nursing home care in the DC Metro area costs between $12,000 to $15,000 a month, which can be catastrophic for most of us! Life Care Planning and Medicaid Asset Protection is the process of protecting assets from having to be spent down in connection with entry into assisted living or nursing home care, while also helping ensure that you and your loved ones get the best possible care and maintain the highest possible quality of life, whether at home, in an assisted living facility, or in a nursing home. To learn more, please contact us at any time for a no-cost initial consultation:

Fairfax Elder Law Attorney: 703-691-1888

Fredericksburg Elder Law Attorney: 540-479-143

Rockville Elder Law Attorney: 301-519-8041

DC Elder Law Attorney: 202-587-2797

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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.

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