Multi-Generational Living: It’s a Choice

By:  Mike Townshend

Published:  February 20, 2019


As we advance in life, many choices present themselves for how we will live and with whom.  For many, living with our life partner and our children may involve Multi-Generational Living.  This is a model that works very well for many of us.  But, circumstances can and will change and with new life circumstances come different opportunities. 


For example, the point in a family’s life when adult children are struggling financially, due quite often to job loss.  A senior family member may be living in a larger house with bedrooms to spare and the ability to help, often for a set period of time.  These living arrangements should be entered very thoughtfully and with boundaries clearly set – in advance.


Then again, a time may come when a senior family member or couple, living on their own, find their physical or financial abilities becoming more and more challenged.  The first to go is usually yardwork.  But this is easily remedied as most neighborhoods have teenagers who are looking to make a bit of spending money.  All of us have engaged these young people and, for the most part, found them to answer the need quite sufficiently.  But, in time, more daily living needs become difficult to accomplish.


When the decision is made to open one’s home (and heart) to more than one generation of family, even for a limited time, this is called: Multi-Generational Living.  While this is a rapidly growing option for families today, we don’t have to remember very far into the past to recall when this was common place.  So, if you consider having children and/or grandchildren live with you, you’re not alone. (Some seniors even sell their home and move in with their children.)


Here are some strategies for Multi-Generational Living to be successful.  First, establish a living area in the home that may be separated from the rest of the family.  This separation helps to avoid feeling we are “on top of” each other.  Second, have a financial plan indicating who will pay what expense.  Third, agree on procedures to follow if the senior needs assistance, financial and/or physical.  Fourth, establish a clear agreement for what chores will be done by whom.  This can include any responsibility for getting children to school and picking them up, household chores, and the like.  And, finally, agree on boundaries such as who will correct children, when seniors need privacy and assistance and, of course, who will feed the family.  Misunderstandings will inevitably cause tension.


When thoughtfully and rationally planned, a family living together with elders to grandchildren can be a warm and mutually efficient living adventure.  I write these thoughts as a grandfather who has welcomed one of his sons and his wife plus several grandchildren ranging from less than one to eleven years of age.  So, I see the benefits and cautions.  But, most of all, I enjoy the time with my grandchildren and my son enormously.  It helps both of us enjoy a different and better life all around.  Good luck with this living arrangement, if you choose to join me in Multi-Generational Living.