Letter from the i editor: Trying to empty the nest


Hot on the heels of my recent letter on empty-nesters, news comes of the Italian parents who turned to the law to try to force their 41-year-old son to leave their Venice home.

The Aged P’s claim their boy has a job but has refused to leave home where he still expects his clothes to be washed and meals to be prepared. “We cannot do it any more.” said poor papa. “My wife is suffering from stress and had to be hospitalised.” The son has been advised to leave home or face legal action.

The story plays into the stereotype of Italian mummy’s boys or “mammoni”. Nine years ago Italy’s High Court found for mammoni in a ruling against a retired Neapolitan professor who had tried to halt the allowance he paid to his 29-year-old graduate son, who turned down “unsuitable” jobs, had an apartment elsewhere and even a trust fund to boot!

Back then 70 per cent of Italian 29-year-old men still lived with their parents, and half as many women. In Britain, a recent ONS report revealed a quarter of 25 to 29-year-old males and half as many females still lived in their parents’ home, and 10 per cent of men over 30 and 5 per cent of women. The numbers were rising then, on the back of the three-decade-long explosion in the numbers of young going on to higher education and the post-1980s decimation of the youth employment market. They will continue to rise, and not just because 1 in 5 youths are now out of work. Soaring house prices (despite the 2008 crash) have compounded the difficulties many young have in being willing and able to empty the nest.

We all have anecdotal evidence. But, my, did this subject unite the i office: Parents and children alike were horrified at the notion. Me? I am in a minority. If for some reason my girls want to live with me in their 40s, I can’t imagine being anything but delighted on a selfish level, but deeply worried for them. And not just because however old I am, there will always be new ways of embarrassing them, and finding an audience for my terrible jokes.