A growing national trend finds multiple generations of a family living together in one house. Far from a new fad, this way of living is a return to the way things were from America’s earliest days until the early 20th century. Let’s look at the trend, its benefits and how to make it work.
Turning back the clock.
Most people know only what they have experienced in their lifetime, and in the last 75 years, American kids left home for college, started careers, bought their first houses and never looked back. Parents became empty nesters, and seeing their grandkids was a special treat, not a daily occurrence.
In America’s more distant past, however, it was common for grandparents, parents, and children everywhere to share the same roof. The concept never dropped entirely from sight; in neighborhoods with substantial immigrant populations, it has remained quite common to see grandparents living with their adult children and grandchildren. Now, however, the tide is turning back across America, and nearly 20 percent of households are once again multigenerational.
Why is there a revival in multigenerational households?
Economic reasons are at the heart of many decisions to combine households. Quite simply, it makes sense to share living costs to ease everyone’s burden, especially for the oldest generation and millennials, both of whom may be strapped financially.
Baby boomers sometimes take their parents in when the parents can no longer manage their own homes but the cost of retirement communities is out of reach. Given the grim statistics on how little boomers have saved for retirement, many of them may end up moving in with their children as well.
The 2008 economic crisis drove a lot of jobless or underemployed millennials back home after college, creating “boomerang” kids. Additionally, many students today graduate with huge college debt, making it hard for them to afford their own housing right away.
The living arrangements.
Living space can be shared in several ways. The concept of the “mother-in-law cottage” or suite, in which mom lives in a small dwelling behind the main house or an apartment over the garage, has been around for decades. In today’s larger homes, the trend in multigenerational living is to create a part of the house for grandparents with a separate kitchen, living area, bedroom and perhaps even entrance.
There’s always the option to convert a garage or basement to a living space, and even to insulate, wire, air-condition and plumb a large attic. Before renovating to create such a space, however, be sure to check into any local zoning restrictions or homeowners’ association rules about adding living space for additional family members.
Although it might be a struggle psychologically, kids returning after college can move back into their childhood rooms. The transition to living back at home might be easier for everyone if you encourage your child to redecorate her old room into a style that reflects her current tastes.