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The number of Americans who live in multigenerational family households has recently increased, and many factors are driving this trend. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2016, 64 million people lived in multigenerational homes that include two or more adult generations, or that include grandchildren under the age of 25 and their grandparents.
During the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009, these multigenerational households dramatically increased, and it’s easy to understand why given the financial stresses and the job loss that accompanied that period. Though the economy has improved, however, the rise in these multigenerational households has continued faster than before the Great Recession.
With all racial groups, most age groups, and men and women embracing these multigenerational households, multiple factors are affecting this living arrangement.
Aging and End of Life Issues
One major factor that causes families to adopt a multigenerational living approach is the issue of aging and the challenges that come with it. Seniors who choose to “age in place” may modify their homes to help keep them safe, but chances are that at some point, they will need additional in-home care and support. In these situations, having their adult children move in with them makes sense, since these children can assume some of the home maintenance responsibilities and can also provide care and companionship.
Conversely, children may move in with their adult parents out of necessity as their parents age. A child may need to help their parents with end-of-life issues, and they may need to live in the same house to keep a close eye on their parents. Since many children are tasked with making choices regarding their parents’ healthcare toward the end of their lives, being in the same house allows children to monitor their parents’ health carefully and make appropriate decisions.
If parents suffer from psychological and mental health issues related to the pain that comes with chronic illnesses or aging, adult children may feel they need to step in and be close to their parents to oversee their health. Some children may make this decision out of the desire to keep their parents out of assisted living or nursing homes. In contrast, other children may feel obligated to pay for their parents’ care in return for the many sacrifices their parents made in caring for them.
When multiple adults live together, they’re often able to divide bills and make life more affordable for everyone. This can be a significant motivation behind multigenerational homes. For some families, home repairs, the cost of living, and expenses like energy upgrades are overwhelming unless made more affordable by this housing choice.
Families can also stay safer by choosing to live together. If adult children could only afford housing in a low-income area with a high rate of crime when living alone, those children could feasibly live in a safer, higher-income area by moving in with their parents or vice versa. A multigenerational home can help all of the family members to experience a higher quality of living than they could otherwise accomplish on their own.
Life-changing events of a financial nature can also cause families to combine their households. If a family member needs medical treatment after a car accident, they may not be able to return to work, but also might not have the money for in-home nursing or other care that they need. Combining families, either temporarily or permanently, can help family members to get through tough financial times like these.
While age and finances often drive these decisions, some families choose to live together for different reasons. In some families, culture and tradition can drive this multigenerational unit. The trend of young adults living with their parents is a tradition for Middle Eastern families, where young adults continue to live at home until they are married. Children may leave home for college but then return home to live with their parents again until their weddings.
Military members may serve overseas for years, and they may give up their United States home during deployment. These veterans may then return home and move in with their parents out of practicality. Aging veterans may live with their children’s families during various periods of time. These decisions may be driven by physical limitations, the challenge of finding affordable senior living, or even a desire to simply live with family.
Multigenerational living isn’t always a sign of a societal problem. Still, when families are forced to live together because of the lack of aging support or financial issues, it does indicate that troubling issues are behind this trend. To best understand the causes behind this living situation, we need to examine the specific reasons that motivate each family to adopt this lifestyle.