“G’night, Grandma.” “G’night, Mary Ellen.” G’night, John Boy.” Those who grew up watching ‘The Waltons’ remember that big house in the Blue Ridge mountains, filled with children, grandparents, and the smell of bacon frying. Those days could be on the way back, as Boomer families take in aging parents, adult children, grandchildren and sometimes all three. A Pew research study this year noted that over 50 million Americans are living in multigenerational homes, a 10 % increase over 2007.
The influx includes young singles and newlyweds struggling to get through college and into the workforce and seniors who aren’t ready for a nursing home, but may not be able to live on their own – leading to three or even four generations under one roof. This way of life is far from new, of course.
Prior to World War II, it was common to find extended families making up a household. Recessionary times seem to be fueling a return to those days, but there are benefits other than financial ones – having grandparents around to share in the childcare and cooking can be a boon to busy families and enrich family life for everyone. Homebuilders are taking notice, and are starting to offer designs that include built-in, semi-private living spaces for cohabitating family members – so-called “granny flats,” over garages or tucked behind the main house. Some people have opted to remodel an existing home to make room for extra bodies.
If you’re considering having your parents move in with you, what are the pros and cons? Can everybody get along in close quarters? How do you carve out digs that provide both privacy and family interaction? Do you worry about loss of independence, or would you welcome the chaos of a big family homestead, á la The Waltons? Is it possible to have the best of both worlds?
Michael Litchfield, author of Inlaws, Outlaws and Granny Flats: Your Guide to Turning One House Into Two Homes (Taunton Press, 2011)
Linda Perlman Gordon, MSW, clinical social worker with a private psychotherapy practice in the Washington, DC area; author of "Mom, Can I Move Back in With You?" (Tarcher/Penguin)