A Side-effect Of The Economic Downturn:                                 American Families Are Becoming 3-Generation Households.

Our society is changing. Over the past 10 years older parents have begun moving in with their adult children at increasing rates. 

  1.   In 2000, 4.1% (2.3 million) elderly parents were living with family.

  2.   By 2007, the number had jumped to 6.5% ( 3.6 million). 

People are living longer, and often with fewer assets. To make ends meet, an increasing number of family members are moving in together.  This is how families used to take care of their oldest members.  In 1947, for example, more than 25% of American homes housed at least 3-generations of a family.

The tradition of multi-generational homes shifted after World War II and the 1950s - when Rural America moved to cities and retirement communities, retirement homes, assisted living and other types of Senior housing became an emerging trend.

But since 1990, the number of multigenerational households has grown by approximately 40%. There are now some 50 million Americans living in such households around the country. With life expectancies increasing, baby boomers retiring, and pension funds failing, these numbers will only continue to accelerate.



  1.   Sometimes, parents and children sell their current residences and combine their funds to buy a more suitable home that fits everyone’s needs.

  1.   In other instances, people simply remodel their home or add on an extra suite of rooms with a separate entrance that offers closeness and security and still offers independence and privacy. 

Transitioning To A 3-Generation Living Environment

It helps you plan and prepare ahead of time when older parents and adult children and families agree to live together. 

This is a major transition for everyone involved; it’s a change in everyone’s lifestyle and living environment, so it pays to take a careful look at the challenges and benefits of this new family environment and lifestyle.

Making the change to multigenerational living may involve 

  1.   Selling a home

  2.   Making home modifications to accommodate new needs

  3.   Arranging for home care and eldercare services

  4.   Resolving general family issues

  5.   Establishing rules and routines that work for everyone involved.  


There Are Many Reasons Aging Seniors Move                                In With Adult Children And Their Families

The cuts to Medicare enacted in 1997 have increased the financial incentives for those who are elderly and/or infirm to move in with a grown child who is able to take on the role of informal caregiver.

Other reasons include:

  1. The desire of parents to stay close to family as they grow older

  1.   The desire of adult children to be close to parents as they age

  1.   The loss of an elder’s spouse; isolation, depression, loneliness

  1.   Longer life spans and increased care needs of aging parents

  1.   Shrinking assets, financial instability and/or poverty

  1.   Increasing medical and healthcare costs for older adults

  1.   High costs of other housing options, which make it difficult for parents to live independently in their own homes.

The move toward multi-generational family households accelerated during the economic crisis that began at the end of 2007.  The  after effects continue to influence many of the care decisions families face today.

Multi-generational living (this San Francisco family is 4 generations - plus pets) is becoming mainstream again for American families.

The return to multi-generation family homes - where younger adult families and their elder parents share a home - is on the rise once again in the United States.  For some families it is an economic decision.

According to Amy Goyer, Senior VP of outreach for, “more and more grandparents move in with their adult children because they have lost jobs or because the stock market's fall has dashed their retirement dreams.

The practice of multigenerational living isn’t new.  It’s been around for centuries. The concept of “non-multigenerational living” is new, becoming popular in the 1940s and 1950s and going mainstream in the 1960s and 1970s.

And just as many grandparents tell me their adult children and grandchildren are moving in with them because of job changes, home foreclosures, and incomes insufficient to make ends meet. American families tend to come together in tough economic times, and the current recession is no exception.”

Amy Goyer

3 Tips To Help Make  Multigenerational Living Work

1.    Assess your family situation and find a realistic, workable plan that works best for your needs and circumstances.

2.  Consider which home modifications that will make the living environment for everyone more comfortable and accommodating

    -  Some families may just want an extra bedroom or two

    -  Other families may need more extensive add-ons such as       

Mother-in-law suites, remodeled garage apartments or on-site cottages with a separate kitchen, entrance and/or handicap accessibility.

3.   If you are considering purchasing a home together, it helps to outline everything from finances to chores to childcare in a written contract and have everyone sign it. 

  1.   That helps minimize miscommunications and any potential misunderstandings down the line.  It also helps family members who are not living in the home better understand how the arrangement is supposed to work.

Read Ashley Eibling’s article, “How To Set Up A Multigenerational Household)” from Forbes Magazine.

Be clear and consistent from the start about each person’s role and responsibilities regarding chores,  finances, care, childcare and other important matters of living together.  Provides Free, Reliable Senior Information and Resources

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