It is interesting to compare the way in which different societies manage this dilemma. The differences lie in the social structure of each society and the effect this structure has on the individual.

In “Western” society, the individual is dominant and the extended family plays a relatively insignificant role. In South Africa, this is the result of colonialism and European development. Here many young men (in the main), responding to societal pressures, chose to leave their families and head out to “find their fortunes”. Most of them found a living rather than a fortune and were not in a position to repatriate money. Eventually, they lost touch with their families and created their own individuality and families, based on their individuality. Under this picture, the passage of years requires an individual response. This involves “Downsizing”, changing from a free-standing home into a smaller home and, eventually, moving into a single room/small apartment with provided assistance. Thus, the Western South African slowly moves from independence, through co-dependence to total dependence as they age, although the individual is catered for as an individual. The “Retirement Home” industry was created to meet demand from this sector of our society.

In the “Black African” society, the situation is somewhat different. When the Negroid peoples left the Sahara region as it started to dry up some 20,000 years ago, they trekked south through our continent. During the course of this journey, which took centuries to complete the power of family, as a group, became ingrained in society. The younger members were cared for by the older who spent much time passing on their experience and the traditions and heritage that was the fabric of the society. Interaction with other groupings further developed the movement, tradition, and heritage of these groupings, which moved slowly South until they met the White peoples in the Great Fish River area.

The result of this developmental is that, in the “Black African” community, the old are generally cared for by the family or clan. They remain an integral, and important, part of the family, acting as the advisors, mediators, and supervisors in the extended family. For the grandmother the raising of children becomes important and their role in this essential function ensures that societal lore and traditions are passed between the generations.  The Grandfather plays an equally important part in the extended family, negotiating between families, mediating discontent and acting as mentors and go-betweens where necessary. In this regard, I suggest,  concern for the aged is far better managed than in our Western families.  To this sector of our society, the “Retirement Home” mentality does not find favour.

Since the publication of our book “The Next Step: Planning the Road through Retirement,” I have talked to some people who manage “Retirement Institutions”. They are very concerned regarding the future of their business specifically because they feel their market is dwindling. As more senior members of society either emigrate or choose to live alone or with their families, the attraction for the retirement village seems to be diminishing. Some of these schemes are considering ways of re-modeling their businesses to make them attractive to a different market niche.

For the white “Western” element of our society, timing regarding the move from independent to dependent living lies with the individual. Only you can make this decision, although your friends and relations may try to encourage/hurry you.

Your decision will depend on your love of independence balanced against the responsibilities associated with independence. I wish you luck and joy whatever decision you make.