Los Angeles, California
When actress and dancer Debbie Allen and her husband, former professional basketball player, Norm Nixon, brought her mother, Pulitzer-prize nominated artist, poet and playwright, Vivian Ayres Allen, then 95, to Los Angeles to attend the Debbie Allen Dance Academy gala, they realized they didn’t want her to be living by herself in Chester, South Carolina anymore. So, she stayed on in Los Angeles and they welcomed her gladly into their household.
Vivian Ayers Allen, now age 97 and affectionately known as “Ma Turk” by her family, is truly the matriarch of the family. She is so deeply loved and respected; there wasn’t any question that they would do whatever was needed for her. “My parents gave up their first-floor bedroom and they moved into the guest room so she could stay in their room,” says her namesake and granddaughter, Vivian Nixon. “When she first moved here my parents were working full time and then up all night with my grandmother. I don’t know how they did it.” Eventually they got some paid caregiving help too. But Vivian still worries about her mother, Debbie. “I told her, I get it – you’ve got to take care of your mom, but you’ve got to take care of yourself too!”
Vivian Nixon, 36, her fiancé, Jazzston Williams, 33, her 2-year-old daughter, Shiloh, and 2-month-old daughter, Aviah, are also living on the property while they look for a new house. Housing prices in the Los Angeles area have skyrocketed during the pandemic so they are biding their time to find the right place. This is truly a busy four-generation household.
As a granddaughter, Vivian helps out with care needs like picking up medications. She also helps bring joy. “We pack in the love and we meet my grandmother exactly where she is,” Vivian relates.
Vivian and her daughters light up her parents’ lives too. “My parents walk right past me to the babies!” Vivian shares. “I’ve given them the greatest gift in having children! They bring so much joy and vitality and energy to my parents’ lives.” She notes that when she sees her father bicycling and walking on the beach with Shiloh it fills her heart. “I just love watching it.” Time with grandchildren is a great stress reliever as her parents are caregiving, and she notes that it’s also helpful to her when her parents take her older daughter overnight, adding, “They get that love and I get that break!”
Vivian says she’s grateful to have a family that works together to meet everyone’s needs. “Everybody’s been very malleable and understanding and giving up their space and time. And I think that’s the key.”
Read the full report and other family stories at Family Matters: Multigenerational Living Is on the Rise and Here to Stay.