Multigenerational homes are a practical way to provide shelter to large, extended families. For some, it may be the best answer to long-term elder care. For others, multigenerational homes may not be the best choice. Let’s look at some pros and cons of this type of communal living.
What Are Multigenerational Homes?
Generally, a multigenerational home implies that three or more generations live together at one location, usually composed of two adult generations and their children. For example, grandparents or even great-grandparents live with their children or grandchildren.
Ideally, each family member has sufficient privacy with separate living spaces in a home designed for multigenerational living. The separate living spaces in these houses usually consist of different living areas for each generation. For example, a couple and their kids may inhabit the second floor, while the grandparents are installed on the ground floor.
When multigenerational homes are well-designed, accessibility, dual-purpose room planning, and possible ramifications of schedule conflicts are taken into consideration.
Accessibility of the entire house for all household members, including elderly family members, means planning and setting up enough space to get around with a wheelchair, cane, or walker. This adaptation might include adding ramps or stairlifts if a multi-level home is converted into a multi-family dwelling.
Some rooms would be designed with a dual purpose, meaning each room is set up with possible changes in mind later down the line. For example, if a room needs to be converted from a dining room to a bedroom, the area should be able to be easily modified. There should be enough space for items such as a hospital bed and visitors’ chairs in addition to what might generally be found in a bedroom suite. Windows are also essential in these dual-purpose rooms. No one likes a dark and gloomy room.
The room locations and connecting hallways also need to be planned to give the house members enough breathing room. Remember to plan for outside living spaces such as patios or porches and communal areas, like a family room, study, or game room, any of which can be changed to accommodate future family needs.
Since there will be multiple generations of people in the house, they will likely have different schedules. Separate entrances are crucial adaptations to make a joint household work. The last thing you want is for Billy to come home at midnight, squeak open the front door and wake everyone on the first floor with his trek upstairs.
Standard Practice in Other Countries
In the United States, the rate of multigenerational homes has increased steadily in the past several decades, increasing to four times the amount since 1971 and reaching 59.7 million people in March 2021. People living in multigenerational homes share a wide variety of ages and demographics. According to families surveyed, the final decision to create multigenerational homes was split between financial necessity and caregiving responsibilities.
In Europe, students and older adults have lived in multigenerational apartment complexes for quite some time. This living situation works because the students get a reduced cost in rent if they provide a certain amount of care and assistance to the elderly. Europe is definitely on the right track, as this not only allows for more affordable housing for students but also is a way to bring social value into the housing development of multigenerational homes.
In Asian countries, multigenerational homes are not just an option for families needing housing. Instead, it is seen as a sacred tradition. It is typical in Asian households for at least three generations of a family living under the same roof. The eldest son often takes on the responsibility of caring for parents in their elder years. This tradition stems from the times before assisted living, or retirement housing was available. Therefore, each family took care of its own seniors. This societal norm allows children to understand the aging process, which leads to their developing empathy for others.
Home Within Home Examples
Multigenerational homes need to be designed with several distinct living spaces, or at least the fact that each family will need their section of the house should be kept in mind in planning.
These concerns have led to a concept called “Home Within A Home.” This construction is not a traditional multigenerational home where the members might share a kitchen and a bathroom. Instead, this design allows families to create a mini-neighborhood. A Home Within Home is a house design in which the dwellings may be built next to each other and even share a wall or two. However, each residence has its own electrical, water, and heating system installed.
Certain amenities of the property may be shared. For example, both families’ children may use the yard between the two dwellings. However, since the structures are often adjoining, the maintenance cost for these facilities can be shared so that it is not such a burden on one family.
D.R. Horton Homes
D.R. Horton Homes are multigenerational homes created with a budget while still offering a modern design for generational growth. This particular setup is planned to house two families. Therefore, there are multiple entrances to the main house, and each family has access to their own living quarters and facilities.
The bedrooms have plenty of space between them, offering a good amount of privacy for each family. The house has a shared dining room and a more private one, which is still separate from the kitchen. The family room is also shared, as this is typically where people in the home will go for entertainment or socialization.
Each family has a private bathroom and kitchen. This home is, as mentioned before, designed with generational growth in mind. Therefore the house is equipped with a couple of extra rooms. These might be a few additional rooms and an extra bathroom. The plan’s flexibility allows the owners to repurpose the spaces as they see fit.
Next Gen Homes
The Home Within a Home design from Next Gen Homes is another example of a multigenerational home that offers a place for your family to gather, learn, and socialize. It also allows room for expansion.
This particular design offers separate bedrooms and private bathrooms for each family. However, the dining and living rooms are shared. While this might seem like a compromise regarding privacy, it allows for better socialization and mental well-being among the house members. The storage room and garage are also shared. Additionally, this design offers several entrances and ways to access different areas without traipsing through other house sections.
Mother-in-Law Suite Plans
A mother-in-law suite is another way a house can be designed for the use of multiple family members. This setup ensures that each person’s privacy and independence are respected as much as possible. Usually, the mother-in-law suite is attached to the main house but with a separate entrance. For example, it might be a walk-out basement apartment or an area above the garage. A similar option is the Elder Cottage Housing Opportunity (ECHO).
While multigenerational households can and do use this house design, it can also be a guest suite or an additional source of income through short-term rental agencies such as Airbnb. Because the mother-in-law suite is entirely separate from the main household, the owner does not sacrifice privacy to accommodate the guests.
Can Multigeneration Homes Help with Long-Term Care?
Benefits to Multigenerational Living
Multigenerational homes can offer a wide variety of benefits to all of the members living in the house. One of the most prominent benefits is the relief from daily living stresses. Due to the ability to reduce each other’s troubles at home by supporting one another, people in multigenerational dwellings tend to be less stressed.
The well-being of the household is primarily enhanced by an improved financial situation for every family member. The financial strain of extended elder care and accommodations is also reduced. For the same reason, older adults can maintain their independence longer in multigenerational dwellings.
They aren’t responsible for all the daily living expenses, but only a part of the whole. Pensions and social security payments go just a bit further this way. This increased financial security is the principal reason why multigenerational households have been on the rise in the last few decades.
Even if an outside caregiver is employed for several hours a day, odds are they will be needed fewer hours than if the senior is living in a different house. Working adults can take turns with elder or child care responsibilities, reducing the burden. This sense of interdependence and community spirit contributes to everyone’s happiness.
In multigenerational homes, it is easier to care for the entire family. Since there will almost always be someone at home, this translates to someone always being available to watch over children or parents. In this type of living situation, grandparents have a place to stay safe during the day and can also take care of grandkids while the parents are out working. In fact, studies in China and Europe have reported that grandparents who care for their grandchildren regularly experience better cognitive and physical health overall.
Time and tasks involved with caretaking for sick family members can also be divided among household residents, reducing the chances of one individual member being forced to do all the heavy lifting, so to speak. Not only does the recovering patient benefit from this scenario, but there is truth in the adage that many hands make light work.
Emotional support for younger family members is also a benefit experienced by multigenerational households. Not only might there be more funding for young people to pursue higher education because of shared living expenses, but they may also have the opportunity to learn skills from the older generation that would be lost otherwise.
Similarly, students will have more family members available to support them in their endeavors. This could be driving them to their school and picking them up or taking them to the store when they need to buy something for that last-minute project, or even helping with the project if required.
Furthermore, family inclusion gives seniors a sense of purpose lacking in long-term care facilities. Having a purpose in life is associated with better health among older adults, including less severe disability, fewer chronic ailments, and reduced mortality.
Due to these benefits of multigenerational housing, achieving a higher family bond is not just possible but more likely. Who wouldn’t want that?
Drawbacks to Multigenerational Homes
As you can see, living in multigenerational homes has several benefits, but there are some drawbacks.
Although having multiple generations living together under one roof (or adjoining roofs) fosters a sense of community, improves mental health, and promotes social interaction, it definitely infringes on an individual’s privacy. Family members may feel boxed in or as if their personal life is constantly on display.
This excessive togetherness can result in an increase in family tensions. Disagreements are part of any relationship. Unfortunately, in a communal household, personal differences about parenting, chores, finances, or any number of things, will need to be reasonably discussed and boundaries firmly set in place.
As mentioned, financial costs are often reduced for those living in multigenerational homes. However, the expense of initial remodeling should be taken into consideration. As the older members of the family age, they may require additional accommodations, which can get to be quite pricey. Furthermore, with more individuals using the same living space, the wear and tear on even a new house will be increased, leading to more home repair and maintenance bills.
The type of multigeneration home design you ultimately choose should have a few ways to solve some of these main drawbacks in the event they rear their ugly heads.
The reason people choose multigenerational homes can vary. Members of the house can divide the house expenses and bills between them, which eases the financial burden. This setup is often much cheaper for everyone involved and certainly much less expensive than maintaining several individual homes. Health concerns of one or more family members might be another reason to choose communal housing. The importance of preserving cultural ties between generations is one more reason for this type of setup.
While multigenerational homes may not be for everyone, they certainly offer many benefits for families with a tight budget, alongside the aforementioned additional opportunities to socialize and grow as a family.