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Multi-generational Living – Is One Big Happy Family Even Possible?

For many years it was common for families to live together for their whole lives, with several generations under the same roof. While this is still the way in many cultures worldwide, in the Westernized world, the practice had largely died out.

However, some families are re-discovering the benefits of living together.

A recent study found that 19% of the U.S. population now lives in a multi-generational home – defined as one with at least two adult generations living under the same roof.

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A Problem Shared Is A Problem Halved

For some people, multi-generational living happens accidentally as a result of circumstance: grown-up children who can’t afford to move out and get on the housing ladder, loss of a job leading to house repossession, or older parents who need caring for but don’t want (or don’t have the financial means) to move into assisted living.

Even when it’s not a deliberate choice, families often discover that there are many benefits – living together can save on housing costs for all concerned. It means that families can spend more quality time together. It may also provide a great childcare solution.


Although multi-generational living can have many benefits, it can also be challenging. If you’re not living together by choice, then resentment can build up on both sides, especially if you’re short on space for the number of people per square foot.

Grandparents might be happy to always be on hand to look after the grand-kids, but if they are still very active, they may not want their social life to revolve around providing childcare.

Conversely, if they are in declining health, they may struggle with active kids constantly wanting their attention, and it can be exhausting for the sandwiched generation in the middle who may find themselves caring for both aging parents and young kids at the same time.

Adult children who are used to making their own decisions may not always welcome their parents’ opinions on how to live their lives, but it can be difficult not to interfere if you’re all living under one roof!

Another challenge may be finding a home that works for everyone. Although it may be possible to reconfigure a large single-occupancy dwelling, housebuilders are catching on and starting to recognize the growing demand for multi-generational homes.

Tips For Getting It Right

1. Talk To Each Other

As with so many things in life, good communication is key – all households work best when there is a clear organization, and people talk to each other!

In a multi-generational home, minor annoyances can easily become big issues if they are not dealt with properly, so it’s often a good idea to have a regular family meeting where things can be discussed openly; that way, resentment won’t build up.

2. Respect And Embrace Others View

You also need to be respectful of each other’s views – if your children have a different child-raising philosophy to you, then that’s ok. But you either need to get on board with it or discuss it with them without the kids’ presence so that you can all be on the same page. Make the rules clear from the start, so nobody undermines each other –

“Grandma says I don’t have to eat my veggies to get dessert” does not make for a happy multi-generational family meal!

3. Show Some Privacy

Another thing to consider is where everyone will spend their time – it’s important that everyone has space to call their own, however small that may be. If you’re able to, then pooling resources to buy a bigger home can be an excellent idea, but even if you can’t, there are some easy alterations or additions that you can do to make a house more senior-friendly.

4. Time Together Is Time Well Spent

Don’t forget as well that although you all need your own space, it’s still good to get together – whether that’s a regular family dinner or games night once a week, or a fun day trip or activity outside the home which will give you a chance to re-connect and renew family bonds differently.

Concluding Thoughts – Living In Harmony

Multi-generational living can have many benefits both financially and in lifestyle, but it’s not without its challenges.

  • Good communication
  • organization and
  • putting some thought into making the home right for everyone who lives there

can overcome many potential issues. Ensure you have thought these things through to make it a positive experience for everyone in the family.

Do you have any other ideas on how to make multi-generation living possible and a happy experience? Leave them in the comments section below. Enjoy reading more such articles by subscribing to us.

This is a guest post by Sally Perkins.

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