It used to be the common story that kids grow up, finish school, get a job, and move away from home to start a nuclear family of their own, and empty-nesters were left with silence in a too-big house. But in recent years, the move away from home part has changed, as multigenerational living has grown in popularity.
More than one in four Americans currently live in a household that’s home to multiple generations. It’s a trend that’s been growing for decades; the number of multigenerational American households has quadrupled since the 70s, and the pandemic helped boost the number of American families sharing space.
Multigenerational homes offer a number of financial and emotional benefits, as well as a few challenges. Read on to learn more about this growing trend in American living.
About Multigenerational Living
Households that contain parents, grandparents, kids and other relatives are more common than you might think. In fact, from 2011 to 2021, the number of multigenerational households in the USA has almost tripled, increasing by 271 percent as less than 1 in 10 Americans living the multi-gen life turned into more than 1 in 4 Americans, and over the course of one decade.
Today, more than 66 million Americans live in a multigenerational household. More than half cite the COVID-19 pandemic as their impetus for moving in with family, and 70 percent plan to keep living this way long-term.
But multigenerational living isn’t a new phenomenon. Through history and across many cultures, several generations of family living together was simply the norm. Of course, there are many types of multi-gen households, too, such as:
- Three-generation: A common structure that often includes working adults, their children, and aging parents and/or grandchildren
- Two adult households: Parents who live with their adult children; includes adult children who take in their aging parents
- Grandfamilies: Older adults who live with grandchildren under the age of 18
- Four- (or more) generation: Great-grandparents, grandparents, adult children, children and grandchildren sharing a home
Why Choose Multigenerational Living?
Not surprisingly, economic factors play a role in choosing a multigenerational living structure. For instance, many adults age 18 to 34 who live with their parents do so to save money. For those starting out in life, living with parents offers a way to focus on their career and build their savings.
For those facing a tough housing market and rising mortgage rates, it often makes sense to move in with family members. For parents, adult working children may help pay the mortgage. Or perhaps they can live mortgage-free in what will be their family inheritance.
Multigenerational living also provides a solution for in-home care for both aging adults and children. With the costs of healthcare and long-term care on the rise, living together in one home offers a solution for elders and those who need assistance. The same goes for childcare; multigenerational households may allow adults to work, while another family member takes care of young children and avoids daycare costs.
Benefits and Challenges
The overwhelming majority of those living in multigenerational settings say that it functions successfully, and that the experience is positive. Some of the benefits include financial benefits and convenient access to eldercare and childcare in the home. There are generally positive impacts on mental and physical health, as family members strengthen bonds. Individual freedom can increase rather than decrease, as family members can pursue educational or career opportunities.
Of course, such arrangements come with some challenges, too. Those in multigenerational living situations do report experiencing related stress at times. Fortunately, planning ahead can help ease the transition.
Considerations for Multigenerational Households
The key to a successful multi-gen household might just lie in understanding the potential benefits and possible challenges before jumping in. Having an open and honest conversation with family members can help set the stage.
Considerations may include merging financial portfolios. Issues such as joint property ownership, handling mortgage and tax bills, setting up family trusts, engaging in estate planning, and awareness of tax and medical benefit impacts are all part of multigenerational living, and offer a way for families to hedge against economic uncertainty.
Don’t forget about caregiver grants and potential tax breaks, as well. The financial aspects of combining households can be complex, and are often best handled with professional assistance and advice.
Remodeling a home to accommodate family members is also key. When aging adults are moving in, consider accessibility issues. Installing grab bars, wider doors, walk-in tubs, and other accommodations may be necessary, and equipping a senior with a fall-detecting life alert system, as well as other safeguards for aging members of the household.
If younger and working adults are moving in, consider privacy issues and make accommodations where you can. Emotional considerations also come into play. Setting appropriate physical and emotional boundaries, carving out space for all family members, and being prepared to navigate generational and cultural differences are essential.
As housing costs continue to rise, the trend toward multigenerational living is likely to continue as well. Taking the time to recognize the many benefits and potential challenges can help you successfully navigate the transition to a multi-gen household.