Is multi-generational living right for you?

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Lifestyles have shifted over the past decade. The powerful population of Baby Boomers has reached retirement age, whether they choose to retire or not. Gen Y and Millennials—people born from 1980 to 2000—represent an even larger number, and their lifestyles are different from their grandparents. Gen Yers don’t have the same commitment to job or place as Boomers. They’re also far more likely to move back home than their parents were. As a result, we’re seeing a growing trend in multi-generational living—two or more adult generations under one roof. In 1980, 28 million Americans lived in a multi-generational household. In 2008, that number soared to 49 million.

There are many positive aspects of living with older and younger family members. But before you make the move, is multi-generational living right for you?

Here are some useful tips for transitioning to and thriving in a multi-generational household.

  • Plan ahead. Discuss the boundaries in your combined home. How will the space be used? And by whom? How can you maintain open communication to resolve issues, like leaving dirty dishes in the sink, annoying bathroom habits, and territorial habits with the remote control!
  • Identify caregiving responsibilities. A multi-generational household presents caregiving challenges, both for the youngest and eldest members. Do you expect the grandparents to help with their grandchildren? If so, be clear on what you’d like to happen, such as attending school events, sports, and recitals. Will grandma be charged with after-school care or helping with the cooking when the parents are running late? Don’t make assumptions. Make roles and rules!
  • Discuss parenting. You might not share the same parenting approach as your parents or grown children. Before moving in together, discuss how the children in the household will be raised, from managing the picky eater to spoiling the children to doling out discipline.
  • Organize shared expenses. Money is often at the root of shared living problems. Develop a budget of household expenses and determine, in advance, how each person is going to contribute. Consider establishing a household account where everyone contributes a pre-determined amount toward the expenses.
  • Split the duties. When one person feels overburdened with household responsibilities, the atmosphere can become tense. Discuss regular household chores—from emptying the trash to scrubbing the bathrooms—and distribute the workload fairly.
  • Invest in family time. Different members of the household will go their own ways most of the time, but to keep a happy, cohesive home, plan on sharing time together. Family time could be a movie or game night, a weekly dinner where everyone pitches in or attends, or some other activity that can be enjoyed by every member of your multi-generational home.
  • Meet regularly. Plan a household meeting to occur at specified intervals; e.g., monthly or quarterly. During this casual gathering, be prepared to talk about any issues that involve other members. You can talk about changes to the household budget or chores, ask for help or suggestions, or simply offer appreciation.

Living with multiple generations offers a wealth of benefits. Children build a closer bond with other family members and learn more about their heritage. Adults can care for their aging parents in a more comfortable atmosphere. Grandparents experience a renewed sense of purpose. Planning for the challenges of multi-generational living will help you maximize the enjoyment!