As a Boomer, chances are you grew up in a single family home. After World War II, thanks to the G.I. Bill and suburban developments, the mom-dad-kids scenario became the norm in this country -- and that trend lasted for decades. Yet according to a recent analysis of census data by the Pew Research Center, the tide is turning. As of 2008, a record 49 million Americans were living in a household with at least two adult generations, and many of those households included children as well. That represents a whopping 33% increase since 1980. In fact from 2007 to 2008 alone, the number of multi-generational households shot up by 2.6 million.
The shift is due to a constellation of causes including the dismal economy, the rising median age of first marriage, and the fact that many Boomers are becoming caregivers for their parents or moving in with their own grown children. Back in 1900, 57% of people 65 and older lived with their adult kids. That proportion dropped to 17% in 1990 but it's edging back up again and has hit 20%. Realtors are reporting an upswing in the demand for homes with "granny apartments," and a good number of homeowners are renovating basements, attics, and garages to create room for additional family members.
What's interesting is that many people who are doing that say they're pleased with the new order. In spite of the essentially pejorative terms we've cooked up such as "boomerang kids" and "sandwich generation," there are indeed some benefits to going back to an arrangement in which the generations are no longer isolated. Consider these positive aspects of bunking with the whole clan:
Strong Family Ties Boost Boomer Well-Being
A recent survey commissioned by the National Council on Aging and Humana, Inc., showed that fully 90% of Boomers responding said they feel revitalized when they spend time with their families.
Pooling Resources Saves Money and Raises the Standard of Living
Families who all live under the same roof can share the costs of mortgages or rent, utilities, and even groceries and vacations. Everybody wins because nobody is bearing the whole financial burden.
Cleaning and Repairs Can Be Shared
The house and the yard will have more willing and able hands on deck to keep the place in ship shape. Especially for dual career mid-lifers, this can be a real boon.
The Kids Have More People to Love
True, they love their grandparents even from a distance, but nothing beats snuggle-and-story time on Grandma's lap or tossing a ball around in the backyard with Grandpa. Again, having the older generation around, unless they do need constant caregiving, is built-in help for the busy middle generation.
The Elder Generation Won't Be "Put in a Home"
Many people dread the thought of spending their final years in an institution. Families that do manage to keep their aging parents at home with them often say that shared time at the end of a loved one's life is precious in spite of the challenges.
If you and yours are considering doubling up, be sure to have a frank discussion about finances right up front. In fact, making a joint visit to a trusted financial advisor is a good idea. Once you get past that step, of course, you need to bring to the situation a big dose of patience and preferably an intact sense of humor. The more people in the household, the greater the potential for occasional conflicts and kerfuffles. Even so, the old adage can also hold true: The more, the merrier. We hope that's the way the story plays out for you and yours!