The concept of multigenerational homes is not new. In the early 20th century, an estimated 57 percent of over the age of 65 lived with extended family. After advances in medicine, Social Security, and Medicare after World War II, older people were more medically and financially stable to live on their own. By the 1990s, only 17 percent of elders were living in multigenerational homes. But that number is on the rise once again.From 2000 to 2009, American households saw a 30 percent increase in households that include at least three generations of family members. Today, 6.6 million homes are multigenerational, an increase that is fueled by both economic and health trends.Both older and younger adults are moving into multigenerational housing situations. Recent graduates are becoming "boomerang kids"; decreased job prospects and national housing crunches are encouraging young people to move back home after college.Baby boomers are also feeling the crunch. As 78 million people enter an aging demographic, housing options are shrinking and many adults are living with their grown children and grandchildren in multigenerational homes. Older women seem to be more likely than older men to enter multigenerational households, due in part to differences in lifespans.
Multiculturalism is also playing a role. An increase in the immigration of Hispanic and Asian families coincides with the increase in multigenerational homes as cultural traditions dictate that extended families live together.
There are risks and benefits abound in this increasing trend. While some people fear the conflict that can arise between family members who struggle to communicate, others are excited about the prospect of bridging generational gaps and keeping families connected even as they age. Regardless, as long as the housing crunch and economic downturn remain, the trend of multigenerational homes is set to continue its upward climb.