Confirming what many have suspected, the Census Bureau has released figures that increasingly seniors are living in multi-generational families. These are families where grandparents, parents and often grandchildren share a home together.
Certainly, the economic downturn has provided some of the impetus for these increasing numbers, but other factors seem to be contributing as well. When a surviving parent can no longer drive, for example, or is experiencing mild dementia, or has suffered a stroke, it is now quite common for a senior to move into an adult child’s home. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 30% of seniors will at some point live in a multi-generational household.
AARP reports joined households can be a positive experience for everyone. While the economic and care benefits are obvious, the multi-generational family has an opportunity to bond in a manner uncommon in our busy world. Children, and especially grandchildren, come to know their grandparents in ways they might not otherwise experience.
Even so, the multi-generational family in not without its challenges. Grandparents might not feel comfortable in an adult child’s home. They will not be "the boss" and there may be differences over pets. And if there are teenagers in the home, there are certain to be differences in social norms and expectations, not to mention noise.
The adult child must understand the needs and demands of the parent. There are likely to be additional time, energy and possibly even financial demands in sharing their home with an aging parent. Not infrequently these dynamics can add stress to a marriage. And adult families often underestimate the amount of care Mom might require. Even if Mom is healthy when she arrives, her care needs could change overnight.
Both generations should talk through these issues prior to making a decision to share a multi-generational home. Our office suggests the list of topics might include privacy and space allocation, shared meals, recreation, chores and especially finances. Shared cost for meals, utilities, phone and cable bills, or even a home addition, is certain to make a parent not so much an intruder, but rather a partner in the home.
Another issue is what to do with a parent’s furniture and possessions. Our office recommends the family plan a 6 month trial to ensure the new arraignments will work to everyone’s satisfaction. During this time it is wise to put the bulk of the furniture in storage and defer any decision as to its disposition until a later date.
Obviously, these are only a few of the considerations for a family thinking of a multi-generational household. Should your family be planning for your future home together, our experienced attorneys and staff are here to help ensure its success.
Adapted from Kiplinger’s Retirement Report
Attorney James O'Reilly