It points to 2011 Census data showing the existence of 362,600 multi-generational households (or 2.7% of the population) and an increase of adults aged 20 to 29 who are living with parents. That figure increased from 27% in 1981 to 42% in 2011. Vanier anticipates multigenerational households to rise.
Gregg Kantak, SRES® knows multigenerational living well, both as a real estate practitioner and because he lives in a multi-generational household. Kantak, a practitioner with Realty Direct in Largo, Md., and McLean, Va., shares a house with several family members, including his 80-something parents, his 100-year old grandma, a daughter, and a tween grandchild.
His living arrangement came about when the 55-year-old was planning ahead and thinking about downsizing from a multi-level townhouse to a single-story property.
At the same, time his parents were downsizing, his grandmother in Florida had lost her husband and wanted to move closer to family, and other family members had felt the sting of the economic downturn.
Upsizing and having everyone live together seemed like a great solution to Kantak. His family agreed. So they all bunk together in a 6,300-square foot house on 10 acres in southern Maryland.
Financial, emotional advantages
The arrangement comes with benefits for everyone, particularly for the seniors. Kantak’s grandma, for example, is being taken care of by loved ones and she can save money for a time when she may need skilled in-home nursing care. His parents sold off their house and socked away the sale proceeds for their future and they’re now able to travel a couple weeks each month.
Kantak, whose family members get along extremely well, sees it as an ideal arrangement. On the economic front, he says, “It’s ridiculous that we all have expenses and struggle when we could pool our money and have that combined wealth working for each other. We could all get a better quality of life together.”
Before they all moved in together, Kantak suggested a two-week staycation during which everyone lived together and did daily living activities – laundry, grocery shopping, going to the movies, and cooking dinner. “We wanted to see what ‘normal’ could be.
The test-drive worked well,” recalls Kantak.
And it turned out that dividing up daily chores wasn’t a chore at all. One person liked doing laundry, another enjoyed meal prep, and another didn’t mind cleaning up the kitchen.
Multiple communal gathering spaces, including a living room and two family rooms, provide enough relaxation spots for everyone. The arrangement also solves troublesome aging-in-place questions. For instance, two first-floor master suites with their own sitting rooms address the seniors’ living needs. Kantak expects that one day he’ll occupy one of those spaces.
Unseen benefits, bridging generations
The other benefits of the lifestyle have nothing to do with money.
For one, multiple generations living together minimizes some of the intensive scheduling associated with caregiving because there’s always someone around to help Kantak’s grandma.
And rather than being at odds with one another because of a huge generation gap, Kantak’s grandmother and her great-grandson learn from one another. She imparts history especially well, according to Kantak, and he brings her insight into the modern world and a view of technology innovations.
“It’s also a wonderful way to instill in younger people that this – ageing – is our future and it’s not to be feared, especially when you have this arrangement and know that someone you know and love, not a stranger, is caring for you,” Kantak says.
5 Tips for Creating Your Own Modern Family
If your family is considering a move to a multi-generational house, here are five considerations.
Legal implications. Meet with elder lawyers and estate planners to discuss how a house will be titled, how to minimize tax consequences when a family member dies, and the effect the living arrangement has on estate planning.
Financial obligations. Have a realistic discussion about finances. How much money can each person contribute? What are everyone’s big and small – prescription drugs, tuition, cars, hobbies, and so forth -- monthly expenses? How will those expenses shrink or grow? For instance, will an elderly family member need in-home, skilled nursing care? How much can you afford to spend on a house? “Make realistic choices so that no one person is fully supporting the other,” comments Kantak.
Space considerations. Have open discussion about everyone’s needs and daily living expectations. What does privacy mean to each person? How do they want to spend their time? How do they relax? What kind of home spaces and amenities are important to each person? Don’t set yourself up for failure by, for example, buying a house with one bathroom. Be certain there’s appropriate space for everyone’s comfort, privacy, relaxation, communal gatherings, and meals.
Universal design. Be certain the house has ageing-in-place features or that it can be retrofitted to include a bedroom or master suite on the first floor, 36-inch-wide doorways, walk-in showers and other universal design elements critical to ageing safely.
Daily chores. Decide how household duties be divided. For Kantak’s family, it was an easy, organic process that was accomplished with open discussions. Thus, in his house, there’s no rigid agreement about day-to-day duties. But some families may prefer a more formal arrangement to minimize friction. Decide what works best for your family.