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Balancing 2 (or more) generations under one roof

Tips for seniors who opt to live with family

(BPT) - If one family trend is an indicator, aging in America is in for a transformation. As people plan their retirement years, more and more are preferring to make the right adjustments at home to age in place, rather than exploring alternatives such as assisted living facilities and nursing homes. For many, that can mean opting to live under the same roof as their grown children and perhaps even their grandchildren.

The advantages of living together

The post-war shift away from communal living is in reverse. A recent report from Pew Research says 20 percent of Americans are now living in multigenerational households, a significant increase from the all-time low of 12 percent back in 1980.

For many families, living together under one roof is a financially practical solution to offset the increasing financial pressures felt across all generations, from healthcare costs to child care. Where housing is concerned, a majority of California seniors saw living at home — and renovating it to accommodate their needs — as a less expensive option over assisted living or a nursing home, according to a market research survey conducted by Wakefield Research on behalf of SCAN Health Plan, a Medicare Advantage plan that serves California seniors. In addition, 61 percent expressed a preference to make changes to stay in their existing home as long as possible rather than move out.

Aside from the financial advantages, living together holds other benefits for seniors. More than half (55 percent) of seniors said they’d be most comfortable living in their current home as they age, ideally with a spouse or other family members. Less than half (47 percent) voiced a preference for living alone at home, 17 percent favor moving in with their children, and 9 percent expect to need assisted living or a nursing home.

It’s clear that the idea of living at home with family members — with a spouse, or together with grown children and even grandchildren — is gaining traction. Communal living has many social, emotional and economic upsides that benefit all family members, but it’s important to plan ahead so everyone is comfortable.

If this sounds like a solution that would work for your family, it's important to think through how you would handle some basic things, from adapting your existing space to managing money, to ensure a smooth transition.

Respect for privacy: The first consideration is recognizing the privacy needs of others. Some developers are building housing designed for intergenerational living. Even if you're not planning on moving to one of these units, their floor plans can provide some inspiration and guidance if you have the room and budget to renovate your existing accommodations to add more separation. Walls, a private entrance, a shower or a kitchenette are upgrades that can make a home more functional for multigenerational living. If renovations are not practical, it’s still important to talk about how to manage the space you have to accommodate the additional family members. Cooking, showering, bedtimes and parking are all things to think about.

Communication: Combining households can be difficult, and there will be a period of adjustment. Both sets of adults may come in with schedules and habits they’ve grown accustomed to, along with varying tolerance levels for TV, noise and dust. This is especially true if family members are readjusting to the presence of children after a decade or more of child-free living. The key to making it work is a commitment to communicate, which means everyone gets a chance to be heard, and everyone works toward a compromise.

Money mindfulness: The other issue to be mindful of is money. Unlike a roommate situation, family finances can get murky. From the start, be clear on who pays for what, from utilities, to child care to dinners out. To make sure things stay on track and to anticipate upcoming onetime expenses, a monthly budget meeting is always a good idea.

Seek support: Make yourself aware of the resources in your community to help you or your family member maintain independent living as long as possible. For example, SCAN Health Plan also offers a number of programs and services at no cost to seniors and their caregivers in many California counties. SCAN’s mission is to keep seniors healthy and independent, and that extends beyond its own plan membership.

Learn more about how SCAN Health Plan can help you or your family member by visiting

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