Multigenerational Living Is the New Rapidly Growing Trend
By Elisabeth Almekinder, RN, BA, CDE, Health Journalist, Registered Nurse, and Diabetes Educator for the Manos Unidas North Carolina Farmworker Health Program
Nancy Porter lives on the panhandle in Florida, in a 4,000 square foot multigenerational home that she and her husband custom-built for themselves, their aging parents, and their daughter and husband, along with their two grandchildren.
Porter family three-generational floor plan
The house has three floors. Nancy and her husband stay on the third floor, and their daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren stay on the second floor. The ground floor is where Nancy’s parents reside. Her father, now 81, has given up his driver’s license recently. Her mother, 78, has been diagnosed with the early phases of Alzheimer’s disease, so being alone and transportation has become an issue for them. Nancy decided that being close to her mother may help her with her Alzheimer’s symptoms.
Each floor has a living room, kitchen, and bathroom, along with one bedroom on the first and third floors, and three bedrooms on the second floor, which accommodates everyone comfortably. Each family retains a certain amount of privacy, as the house is divided into separate living quarters. They’re close enough to see each other often and provide child care to the young or elderly care to their parents or grandparents when needed.
“For close families, like ours is, a multigenerational housing situation can work to benefit all members,” said Nancy Porter. “My husband has cancer, so combining our incomes and having one mortgage, plus having family members to help, allowed me to work from home and help get him to his cancer treatments. It’s a big help for my daughter and son-in-law because I prepare meals and watch the kids after school. My daughter pulls her weight by helping with meals and housework, and so does her husband. It’s worked like a swiss watch for us.”
Two or more generations living together is on the rise
The Porters are part of a new trend toward multigenerational housing. As Pew Research Center reported from census records in April 2018, a record 64 million Americans now live in multigenerational households. That’s 20 percent or one in every five homes in the US where two or more generations of family members are living together. It’s not isolated to one racial group and crosses all age, sex, and ethnic backgrounds.
Drawbacks of combined living
The Porter household may be more private than most multigenerational living situations. Many have too many people sharing one bathroom or bedroom, and cramped quarters, which can make for ill tempters. Anytime there are more family members under one roof; tensions can rise as emotions take over. Before you know it, it can be one generation against another.
It can be based on roles, and confusion about who does the mothering when there are two mothers in the house. It could be that one family member carries more weight around the house than the others. There is something special about multigenerational living that is, at the same time, maddening. For all it’s benefits, multigenerational housing also has its drawbacks.
Living multi generationally has its benefits
Even when everything is not perfect, or Even if You’re Arguing, Eating As a Family Helps Teens Eat Healthier. That’s only one benefit of multigenerational families for Blue Zoners. We can also avoid The Curse of Loneliness, A Modern Epidemic.
Why the surge in popularity?
The last time multigenerational housing capped 20 percent was in 1950 when it hit 21 percent. By 1980, the number of homes shared by generations in a family had dropped to 12 percent. After the recession from 2007 to 2009, the number of these households rose sharply, then leveled out.
What’s responsible for the renewed popularity of the multigenerational home? Though the Porters in Florida are of Caucasian ethnicity, which accounts for 16 percent of those living in this type of housing, most multigenerational living is coming from the growing Asian, Black, and Hispanic populations in the US.
More young adults staying home, or “boomeranging”
An interesting factoid is that those in the age group of 18 to 34 for the first time in 2014, reported that they lived with their parents much more often than any other type of living arrangement. One reason points to people marrying later in life, and choosing to live with their parents for economic reasons, or choice.
Those who are immigrants are also more likely to reside in these housing situations. Some in the baby boomer generation are more financially able to take on the care of their aging parents, or conversely, economic hardships from loss of a job or reduced incomes may necessitate combining households.
Health problems, financial issues, and a move away from corporate nursing homes
As Americans live longer, chronic conditions and health problems become more likely, necessitating care which families are more often providing from within the family unit versus seeking corporate nursing home care or assisted living facilities. 4
In blue zones regions, it’s common to see multigenerational homes as the norm, rather than moving aging relatives to a retirement home. A combination of family duty, community pressure, and genuine affection and respect for elders keeps centenarians in these areas of the world with their families for their entire lives. As a result, grandparents interact daily with grandchildren, providing benefits for old and young alike.