EMPTY NESTERS: Bob and Carol Bursill, Josie Ginty with mother Prue Weaver and father David Ginty.
EMPTY NESTERS: Bob and Carol Bursill, Josie Ginty with mother Prue Weaver and father David Ginty. Tracey Johnstone

No kids! Time to rejoice!

THE house is a lot quieter, there are less dishes in the sink and washing on the line, the bills are less and so too the cleaning; the kids have finally left home, the nest is empty.

Empty nesters are embracing their freedom from day-to-day family responsibilities according to research from the Australian Seniors Insurance Agency (ASIA). Many are rediscovering financial and social freedom.

Two couples in their early 60s who have seen their children out the door are Prue Weaver and her husband Dave Ginty, and Bob and Carol Bursill. Both watched their children willingly head out within about two years of finishing high school.

The reactions to the children's departure is mostly one of joy, like 51 per cent of those surveyed by ASIA.

Prue and Dave fully supported their son and daughter quickly departing the family home. "I was delighted," Prue says. "It gave them the chance to do what they wanted to do on their own terms, and I was still available if they needed backup or financial support, but basically they were on their own to spread their wings and suffer the consequences, if there were going to be any."

Bob noted he was thrilled to see his three kids happily gain their independence and know what they wanted to do. Carol was the dissenter. "I didn't really want all my kids out of the house," Carol admits. "I would have loved for them to stay home another four or five years."

Most survey respondents, some 74 per cent, said they had more time on their hands. "The difference was not that the kids were there or not there, it was that that they weren't at school anymore," Prue adds.

When it ccomes to finances, life is much better, to start. "But we still forked out a lot of money for them, even though we didn't have the day-to-day expenses," Carol says.

All agree that even now they are still handing out money to help their children. "It's on a needs basis," Bob says. But, both Carol and Bob wonder, are they now spending more on the children then they used to, but just in larger, lump sums? There are you see, house deposits and grandchildren costs to be considered.

For Prue and David, "We made a deal with them that if they go into university we would either pay their fees or accommodation. We were then able to budget for the amount," Prue says.

Each couple's financial obligations haven't stopped them from finding ways to enjoy the freedom that comes with an empty nest. "We have more time to put into work," David says. "But we don't have to be home to put the dinner on," Prue adds joyously.

With the kids out of the house and retirement from work a reality, the couples joined the 59.6 per cent of survey responders who find themselves spending more time on their recreation and hobbies. Carol has joined some social groups and got stuck into scrapbooking. Bob spends more time in the garden and tinkering with boats. Prue and Dave are travelling overseas to fascinating places, but always on a tight budget.

Downsizing is another outcome of becoming empty nesters. While they have retained a spare room in their small apartment, David and Prue are happily out of the much larger family home. "Well, nobody was using half the house," David declares.

Bob and Carol are like about 30 per cent of the ASIA survey responders who have turned a spare bedroom into a hobby space. "Because we had children who had the grandchildren straight away, we wanted to keep room in the house for them," Carol said. Downsizing soon is however on the cards for them.

Both Bob and David are more active now that they have more free time. "The sporting activities only started when all our expenses went away," David, a keen dinghy sailor, says. Both of the women haven't become more physically active, instead turning their attention more to their crafts.

Allowing any of the children to return home indefinitely isn't an attractive idea for these empty nesters. They know the way they live now won't support the intrusion of the younger generation. But, of course, if a disaster happened, the door would reopen.

"They come with attachments," Carol says. "They come with husbands or wives who you may, or may not, get on with. And the children who you may or may not like the way they are being raised."

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