Full House

By Kristen Castillo

January 12, 2018 5 min read

Many seniors today are moving in with their adult children to save money; to allow the adult child to serve as caregiver; or to allow grandparents to help babysit grandchildren. The reasons vary, but the overall trend is consistent.

According to Pew Research, a record 60.6 million Americans live in multigenerational households (i.e., a household that includes two or more adult generations, or one that includes grandparents and grandchildren). In 2014, 23 percent of Americans ages 55 to 64 and 21 percent who were 65 or older lived in multigenerational households.

The most common type of multigenerational household consists of two adult generations, typically parents and adult children older than 25. (This excludes college-aged students who still live at home.) That's the living situation for 29.7 million Americans. Another 26.9 million Americans have a three-generation household (typically grandparents, parents and grandkids).

Whatever the reason or the setup, when seniors move in with their adult kids, they have a lot to consider.

"Seniors considering moving in with adult kids must be prepared for two major things: a change in the hierarchy of the former family dynamic and accepting the way that their now adult children have chosen to live their lives," says R.W. Burke, author of "Quiet the Rage: How Learning to Manage Conflict Will Change Your Life (and the World)."

He says seniors are used to having their kids depend on them. By moving in together, that dynamic may be changed. It's important to set up fair and specific rules for the whole family, young and old.

*Great Expectations

Seniors and their adult kids and families need to talk extensively before moving in together.

"When seniors consider living with their adult kids, they need to be honest with themselves about their expectations," say Sandra Butler and Nan Gefen, authors of "It Never Ends: Mothering Middle-Aged Daughters."

Some seniors think parent-adult child relationships will change when they live together. Will old tensions will go away? Maybe, maybe not.

"Living together isn't going to change anyone, and it might exacerbate troubles that already exist," according to Butler and Gefen. "Sometimes relationships improve, but often they don't. And that needs to be OK with seniors before moving in."

*Money Matters

Financial situations will vary, but make sure you all have clear guidelines on how the parent, adult child and respective spouses will handle money and division of labor, including household chores, such as cooking and cleaning, as well as childcare.

"If possible, it is really important for the older parent to feel like he or she is contributing in some way," says Jennifer L. FitzPatrick, who holds a master's in social work and is the author of "Cruising Through Caregiving: Reducing The Stress of Caring For Your Loved One."

And if a parent moves in to help an adult child financially, FitzPatrick says, it's "crucial for the older parent to set limits on how much money will be contributed to the household."

*Best Practices

Not sure if moving in as an extended family is a good idea?

"Consider doing a trial run of living together first, maybe do it for a month to get a feel for how living together might work out," says FitzPatrick, mentioning a two-week family vacation to a beach or mountain house can make a good test run, too.

"Have a plan. Make sure all parties are on board," says Burke, who believes each side should have an exit strategy in case things don't work out. "Good agreements, boundaries, clear expectations, and constant and clear communication are essential."

It's also wise to put the living arrangements in writing. That way, if anything comes up, you'll all have a document of the agreed expectations.

If things don't work out, stay friendly. Don't let it ruin the family relationship long term.

Caring.com suggests asking these questions before moving in with your adult children:

--How well do all the parties get along?

--How do you feel about moving in with your adult children? How do they feel about moving in with you?

--Does the home have adequate living space for every member of the household? For example, are there extra bedrooms? Are bathrooms available on every living level?

--How much care do you need now? Might you need care in the future?

--Are you available to help with childcare for your grandkids?

--How much privacy will everyone have?

--How will you handle finances? Some seniors and kids pool their money together; others pay rent to their adult kids.

Whatever you choose, make sure all parties, including adult siblings, are comfortable with the arrangement.

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