Multigenerational living is on the rise, increasing fourfold since the 1970s. Multigenerational living is defined as having two or more generations of adults living together. Not surprisingly, there are pros and cons for seniors that choose this type of living arrangement.
It is noteworthy that other types of households grew by a lower margin than multigenerational homes. Recent 2021 findings by Pew Research report that 59.7 million U.S. residents live with multiple generations of adults. Comparatively, this figure is up from 58.4 million in 2019.
How Seniors Benefit from Multigenerational Living
There are practical financial, emotional, and logistical reasons for sharing a home with your adult children or grandchildren. Below is a list of those benefits.
1. Shared expenses always make financial sense, benefitting all parties.
Doubling or tripling household income offers a practical way for a family to buffer family members from typical setbacks that can devastate a single-family income. Losing a job or being too ill to work is no longer an issue when families stick together and protect each other emotionally and financially.
2. Younger adults can safely drive their boomer parents and grandparents around after slower reflexes and poor eyesight make it impossible to continue driving.
While few adults like the idea of turning over their car keys as a safety measure, at some point in time it becomes a necessity. By living with your children or grandchildren, you have easy access to transportation for both emergencies and routine visits to the bank and grocery store.
3. Adult children provide emotional support for their older relatives.
Studies show that one of the biggest emotional problems that many seniors face is loneliness. By living with other family members, loneliness is less likely. Simply having someone to have coffee or meals with bolsters self-esteem and feelings of belonging.
4. Emergency situations are avoided, identified, or managed in a timely manner.
One of the most dangerous threats that many seniors fear is falling or having a stroke while alone. This type of accident or emergency situation can lead to death without immediate care. Surrounded by family members, this type of disaster is less likely.
5. Babysitting and offering advice provides boomers with a sense of purpose and connection.
After retirement, many seniors feel like they have lost their purpose in life. Adult children can benefit from the wisdom that their parents have accumulated over the years. Being in a position to continue contributing to family members is a wonderful gift to both the younger adults and the boomer.
6. Family members can provide basic care when seniors are sick or recovering from a medical procedure.
The older we get, the longer it takes to recover from the flu or common cold. Having family close by to help us out can make a big difference. Whether it’s making a bowl of chicken soup or helping a loved one by picking up prescriptions for them, caregivers connected by blood offer the best kind of loving, emotional support available.
7. Eating regularly with family members at the table ensures that seniors are not neglecting their health.
Cooking for one is something that many seniors simply avoid, relying instead on junk food to satisfy hunger pains. Healthy family meals together with loved ones ensures that boomers maintain a nutritional diet.
Challenges Associated with Multigenerational Living
Living with other adult family members is not always easy. Predictable challenges arise related to differences in expectations and lifestyles.
1. Housekeeping practices can create disagreements in multigenerational homes.
Anyone who has ever had a roommate or a fight with their mother over being messy knows that as adults we all have different expectations related to acceptable housekeeping standards. Pet peeves about not leaving dishes in the sink or shoes all over the living room floor can annoy fastidious family members who like a spotless house.
2. Having enough private time and space can be difficult in a crowded house.
If you have ever felt like the only alone time you get is in the bathroom with the door locked, then you know that living with a lot of people under the same roof can be a bit overwhelming at times.
3. Agreeing to house rules related to a division of labor can be difficult.
Even the most loving families can experience frustration over who is in charge. Power dynamics can be tricky to negotiate when all the decisionmaking parties are adults. Younger adults may have difficulty conceding to their parents like they once did in previous years as children. Conversely, boomers accustomed to making the rules may feel like they aren’t being respected when their children want to play a more active role in important decisions sometimes overriding their parents’ decisions.
Tips for Promoting a Positive Multigenerational Living Experience
1. Discuss the pros and cons of the living arrangement with all parties before making the commitment to move in together.
2. Establish a set of guidelines to eliminate disagreements before they arise.
3. Write up an agreement about house rules, distribution of chores and financial expenses owed by each member of the family. All parties should read and sign the agreement for future reference.
4. Set aside quality time to connect with your spouse alone.
5. Set physical and emotional boundaries with your family.
Multigenerational living can take a significant amount of financial stress off the shoulders of each individual family member. While it may not be the perfect answer for all families, many adults are happy to move in with family members as a way to minimize financial stress.