older mature mother and grown millennial daughter laughing

(Credit: fizkes/Shutterstock)

NEW YORK — Are parents always “parents,” or is there a point where they actually become more like friends to their kids? Over half of American adults say their parent is their best friend. According to a survey of 2,000 Americans 40 and older, 58% feel closer to their parents now than they did as children.

Conducted by Talker Research on behalf of Comfort Keepers for the National Day of Joy on June 26, researchers asked respondents about the experiences they’ve had with their parents in their “golden years” — the phase of life that begins in one’s senior years, typically after retirement. According to the survey, Americans and their senior loved ones are now shopping together (33%), trying new restaurants (26%), and traveling to places they have never been before (16%).

Another six percent are also enjoying concerts together. The most popular options on their bucket lists are The Rolling Stones (17%), Usher (12%), and Taylor Swift (11%).

Engaging in shared activities with senior loved ones has sparked an overwhelmingly positive response, with 88% of respondents expressing it has had a positive impact on their parent/child relationship. Half the poll had a positive experience from these bonding moments and said it made them more grateful for their time together. Half also said it improved their loved one’s mood as a result. In fact, 64% of those surveyed said that their parents still keep a positive attitude about their aging.

According to the survey, the activities senior parents do together with their adult kids have also inspired them to stay more active (35%), increased their confidence (25%), and made them more open to trying new things (30%).

“Sharing in activities with senior loved ones isn’t just about creating memories and moments of joy for older Americans. It’s about forging lasting connections that enrich the lives of both generations,” says Sherri Snelling, a gerontologist, author, and spokesperson for Comfort Keepers, in a statement. “These bonding experiences not only bring happiness but also contribute to a positive mindset towards aging, ultimately promoting longevity and well-being for all ages.”

Dad jokes: Father, son laughing after telling a jokeDad jokes: Father, son laughing after telling a joke
According to a survey of 2,000 Americans 40 and older, 58% feel closer to a parent now than they did as children. (© koldunova_anna – stock.adobe.com)

The survey also revealed that during the golden years, four in 10 respondents (41%) learned something about their parent’s youth that surprised them. This includes learning that their parent was married before they met their mother or father (14%), that they were in the military (12%), and that they were friends with a celebrity (4%) — such as Elvis Presley, according to one respondent.

Of those who said they learned something about their parents during their golden years, over half (51%) said they also learned that the lessons their parents taught them while growing up were still valuable today. One in four adult children said they learned that they are more similar to their parents than they thought, and over half (58%) said that discovering these things about their parents made them much more relatable.

One in three Americans also admitted that there were some real-time realizations that they were not prepared for with an aging parent (36%). Of those who experienced this, they became aware that their parent needed more assistance than they realized (29%), they would struggle to balance caring for them with their own family or self (21%), and that they needed more external support to help care for them (15%).

In fact, 74% said that having a caregiving network to support their aging parents’ physical, emotional, and social needs is important.

“The golden years of seniors’ lives can unveil profound insights for their adult children, including discovering who their parent is as a person, but also realizing their evolving needs that come with aging,” says Saudia Gajadhar, chief happiness officer at Comfort Keepers. “Amidst this journey, real-time realizations occur, shaping how caregivers provide support. It’s a transformative experience of care, understanding, and making new cherished memories together.”

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 Americans aged 40+ was commissioned by Comfort Keepers between April 8 and April 15, 2024. It was conducted by market research company Talker Research, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society (MRS) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).

About Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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