In a spirit of gratitude and giving back to the parents who raised them, Bill and Jackie Merz's daughters have extended a generous invitation.
"They both live in Chicago now”said Bill Merz, 75, a retired Sacramento State psychology professor. "One was willing to put an extra floor on her house and install an elevator for us so we could live there. The other wanted to convert her basement for us.
"I told them we'd have somebody shoot us before we did that."
The Merzes, who live in their own home at Eskaton Village Roseville, adore their extended, close-knit family, which also includes two sons in California and 11 grandchildren. But the idea of living with the kids in their older age leaves them cold.
"My first reaction was, 'I don't want you telling me what to do,'" said Jackie Merz, who is also 75 and a retired teacher and counselor.
Most older adults tend to be a bit more euphemistic about it: Typically, they say that they don't want to be a burden to their kids, or that they don't want to impose. But statistics show a plainer truth. In huge numbers, seniors relish their freedom, and they want to live on their own as long as they can.
In the Sacramento region, US census figures show that almost three-fourths of people 65 and older live in same-generation (as opposed to multigenerational) households. National figures are even higher, with nearly 80 percent of older adults living in their own households – more than triple the number from the 1940s.
A recent survey from the research firm Gallup & Robinson highlights that sense of independence. While 53 percent of people below age 65 said they would take in an aging parent who needed their help, only a quarter of people older than 65 said they would accept an invitation to live with their grown children.
Those attitudes fly in the face of a stubborn cultural cliché, in which the grandparents, kids and grandkids grow older together under one roof – a holdover from the days when there was no choice but for the generations to live together, like it or not.
"I think the stereotype exists because we continually look retrospectively," said Bill Merz. "It becomes a museum piece. Look at TV shows and movies about Christmas, the nuclear family they show.
"It hasn't been that way since World War II. GIs didn't come back from the war and move to Mom and Dad's neighborhood. They moved to the suburbs or across the country."