Multi-generational living has always been with us, but it has resurged in recent decades as Americans have dealt with changing economic circumstances. And living in an extended family unit may be an even better idea than it was in the past: many teleworking jobs can now be easily done remotely from there and increased storage options ease the space constraints. Then there are always the emotional benefits different generations living together bring each other, which can be maximized with a little care and planning.
There are currently around 4.7 million households consisting of three generations or more in America, according to the US Census. Hawaii, California and Texas see the nation’s highest proportions of such multi-generational living: 7.3%, 5.8% and 4.9% of their households, respectively. A recent study by STORAGECafé found that more than 40% of 18- to 34-year-olds were living with their parents in many of the country’s metropolitan areas. It is clearly very possible to live this way in America in the 21st century. And whether you are a working adult, a retiree or a recent college leaver, there are also many reasons you might find it desirable!
Multi-Gen Living Still Offers Great Economic Advantages
Many cultures have of course always embraced multi-generational living to get by economically, and the melting pot of the USA is no different. But after the Second World War, many Americans found they had more spending power and also an increasing desire for independence stimulated by the changing society around them. By 1970, the number of 25- to 34-year-olds living with their parents was just 6.8%, with men somewhat more likely than women to be in that group.
But factors such as rising home prices gradually made independent living less sustainable and extended family households became more common again. After the economic challenges that began in 2007, the 25-34 demographic living with their parents hit 12% and then exceeded 16% last year. ‘Boomerang kids,’ returning from university or perhaps finding themselves between jobs, balanced their budgets by going back to live with their folks, and expensive nursing home fees were saved if seniors could move in with their offspring. In addition, the hugely increased trend for teleworking means that many people who choose to live with relatives find they can work profitably from a computer in their bedroom there. You might find that multi-generational living eases a range of financial concerns.
Keeping It in the Family: It’s Not Just about the Money!
Economic advantages are not the only ones to be gained from multi-generational living. The arrangement can mean there are extra hands to help with childcare, car-pooling will be easier, and cooking and eating in a large group is not only more efficient but also more communal — with a bit of luck, you may even find somebody in the household who is handy at DIY! In addition, when several generations live together, grandparents will have time to pass on to the youngsters what life has taught them, a win-win situation.
Elderly relatives often appreciate familiarity — the same goes for family members who are not able to work for whatever reason — so staying with their adult children may be their preferred option. There is a trend now for accommodating them with their families in dedicated elderly housing units. And, if they have care requirements, they will have people on-hand who understand them well and are motivated to do the best for them. This arrangement became even more attractive last year due to the possibility of infections being caught in communal living facilities.
Moving to Multi-Gen Living Succeeds with Careful Planning
You can welcome new members into a multi-generational household by carrying out a little home renovation — this also helps existing ones appreciate the fresh start. One of the easiest fixes is to install new furniture in place of older and bulkier items, which may also create a bit more room. Everybody likes to have their own private space, and partitioning walls can sometimes be erected to create new rooms in a house — they can even be sound-proofed, which will be appreciated if very young generations are involved in the mix! If you are adapting your home to multi-gen living, you’d do well to consider these practicalities as early as possible.
Anything dislodged either by the arrival of new household members or the renovation process can be put in self storage until a time when perhaps the home reverts back to having fewer residents. This is also true for vehicles. New arrivals may be working adults who still need their cars but find they no longer have a place to keep them. Self storage facilities offer both garage-sized units and parking spaces, and this can be cheaper and safer than parking on a street. Look at all these options before the household increases in size so nobody experiences a period of stress.
Common Sense and Respect Will Be Appreciated!
For living successfully with relatives of other generations, some discussion is advisable and rules need to be set. Not all the issues will be known up front, but many can be avoided if you have some foresight. While younger generations may have to be warned that disruptive behavior will not be tolerated, older ones may just as likely need to be informed that things cannot be exactly the way they are used to them. And of importance at this current time, with infection risks impacting all generations, is deciding how interactions with people from outside the household are to be managed.
It may be a good idea to ensure that all household members feel comfortable in at least part of the home’s shared living areas. This might involve putting familiar pictures up on the wall or providing cupboard space dedicated to each person’s favorite books or leisure equipment. Displaying family photos can be a way to encourage togetherness, but maybe check with everyone first to see which shots give them the best memories. Another idea to consider is reinstating to a prominent place any heirlooms or gifts that were originally purchased by folks who now live with you!
Living in a multi-generational household is much more than just a matter of necessity. It not only helps you balance your budget but can also set you up for a more financially secure future, these days more easily than ever before. Then there are the emotional benefits, with family members getting to know each other better and taking advantage of the help and experience their relatives can offer. Increasing a household’s size by admitting new members, whether young or old, can be a challenge, but with careful planning, discussion and understanding you can help it go smoothly. The multi-generational family unit has been working across the globe forever and the 21st century is not going to break that tradition.