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Making the Most of Multigenerational Living

Editor’s note: This post follows the first in this two-part series, Multigenerational Living on the Rise. These posts are modified from Amy Goyer’s article, Multigenerational Living is Rising, and May be to Everyone’s Benefit in the September/October 2011 issue of the American Society on Aging’s Aging Today.Asian family group

Those living in multigenerational households admit there are challenges that come with this living arrangement, but most say the benefits outweigh them. Financial reasons are often cited as the primary motivator for multigenerational living, as well as caregiving needs. But many report benefits beyond the practical.

Families living in multigenerational homes have built-in opportunities to build stronger, mutually beneficial intergenerational relationships. Grandparents and other older family members can be central characters in a child’s life, instead of supporting players.

If you’re living in a multigenerational home that includes children, think about incorporating these things to take full advantage of the inherent intergenerational opportunities:

Michelle Milad, age 43, and originally from New Jersey, her husband, Hany, age 32, and their son Noah, age 5, moved from Egypt to America because of Noah’s medical needs. Michelle’s 56-year-old Aunt Terry invited them to live with her in her Maryland home. Terry had medical issues, lived alone in a large house and wanted to have an “adopted” grandchild.

More than four years later they are knee-deep in multigenerational living; Michelle often has been a caregiver to Terry. The Milads have talked about moving, but they realize that the move would include Terry, too. At times they feel trapped, and they are supporting their aunt financially and emotionally. But Noah adores Terry. “He motivates her beyond belief, and it’s great to have a live-in babysitter,” says Michelle. “There are a lot of compromises, and we’re an odd mix, but it does seem to work.”

I often hear from the middle generation adults who are raising their children in multigenerational homes that the biggest challenge is having their own parents comment on their parenting skills. “Opinions and advice are given freely, and I take it in stride on most days,” says Laura Patyk. As I described in my previous post on multigenerational living, Laura and her husband Paul invited Laura’s parents to move in with them and their six children in 2003.

But Laura sees that her children are compassionate toward their grandparents and other older people. Plus, her parents have been able to share in their grandchildren’s joys, sorrows and life activities. “I think we will see the benefits throughout our kids’ lifetimes,” says Laura. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Tips for Making the Most of Multigenerational Living

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