Is your household getting a little more crowded? If so, you’ve joined the millions of Americans in multigenerational homes. According to recent studies by Pew Research and The Harris Poll, about one in four adults are living this way. This number has been rising steadily since the 70s, with a particularly sharp increase in the last couple of years.
Who is moving in with their family? It could be people of any generation. However, seniors and millennials are leading the trend of living with extended family of differing ages. The data suggest that about a third of young adults aged 25 to 29 have moved in with parents or grandparents or never moved out in the first place.
Meanwhile, 20% of senior women and 15% of men are living in a combined household. Sometimes they move in with an adult caregiver. Other times as they choose to age in place their own home becomes a refuge for younger family members, who may take over the role of caregiver.
Why Multigenerational Living
What drives this trend? The economy is a major and obvious factor. For many families, finances are tight. This is compounded by a tough and worsening housing market. Home ownership is out of reach for many millennials and older generations. And even renting an apartment is a huge financial burden in certain areas.
It can make sense for one adult to sell their home or end the lease and move in with family. Money that was being flushed away by rent or a mortgage is freed up. It can now be put toward much-needed expenses, medical care, or rebuilding a rainy day fund.
America’s aging population is a major piece of the picture. There are multiple healthcare constraints in the country, with staffing shortages in basically every field including elder care. The opportunities available are often too expensive for the senior and their loved ones to afford. Instead, adults are stepping up to become caregivers to older family members.
Living together lets the adult offer a greater degree of round-the-clock care than living away from their loved one. It also gives the senior more opportunities to help out as well. For instance, many families rely on the grandparents to watch young grandkids. This frees up a lot of time and money for the parents, and it can deepen family bonds.
As already touched on, finances are some of the biggest benefits of these living arrangements. Multigenerational homes create a resilient financial safety net. For example, if one household member’s work hours are cut, another may be able to take up the slack. And it’s more cost-effective to maintain one home, one set of kitchen appliances, etc.
Other advantages include being able to buy food in bulk at lower cost and have it eaten within its shelf life. Carpooling too may get easier when everyone lives in the same place. And there can be large savings and more trusted service from saving on elder caregiver and childcare expenses.
However, money isn’t the only factor that matters. Many families appreciate the stronger bonds that can develop when they spend more time together. This is especially true for older adults who often struggle with loneliness and social isolation. Young children also have the opportunity to get to know their grandparents better.
Finally, multigenerational living can give middle-aged adults peace of mind about their seniors. They are providing round-the-clock care and can pop their head in at any time. This lets them check on their senior’s well-being easily, instead of calling a geographically distant relative and worrying when no one picks up – and they can become the first responder to a life alert emergency instead of a call center.
An increasing number of people aren’t just living in the family home and counting the days until they can afford to move out. Instead, they consider multigenerational living an indefinite arrangement.
But as with every living arrangement, there can be challenges. Some of the more common issues reported from the multi-gen life include:
- A lack of space and privacy. It can be difficult, especially for people who lived alone with a whole home to themselves, to now have just one room. Introverts can struggle to find alone time to unwind and recharge. Meanwhile, social butterflies may be upset that they can’t throw big parties in the crowded family home.
- Sacrificed space and possessions. Generally speaking, the person moving in needs to get rid of more of their belongings. This can be painful and embarrassing, especially for adult children who were financially forced to move back home. Meanwhile, the homeowner may need to rearrange and remodel the space to create senior-friendly areas. This is a major expense and disruption that can last for months, leading to frayed tempers.
- More complicated finances. Combined finances aren’t always positive news. Are expenses divided fairly? How will multigenerational living affect everyone’s taxes, trusts, and medical benefits? It can be helpful to talk to a qualified professional about this, to avoid a nasty surprise during tax season and beyond.
How do families navigate these challenges? They keep the lines of conversation open, before and after the big move. The family works together toward mutual understanding and solutions. If there are persistent issues, a therapist can help everyone communicate their side and listen to other perspectives. Yes, therapy can be costly. However, the benefits of multigenerational living can be priceless.
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