Multigenerational Living: Could You Live With Your Grandchildren?
Multigenerational living has been the norm throughout most of history. It’s only recently that society has changed. Given the cost of renting an apartment in California, let alone purchasing a home, many twenty-somethings are “boomeranging” back home. They’re saving money before making the launch.
But multigenerational living is also becoming a lifestyle choice. Around the country, senior housing neighborhoods are being incorporated into new communities where seniors, empty-nesters and young families all co-exist.
Living with Youngers
Conventional wisdom says that Baby Boomers and older seniors don’t want to live near noisy children and teenagers. And yet, some senior housing experts say older people enjoy being around younger people, that it helps them stay current. Seniors enjoy learning from younger generations and are keen to share the wisdom they’ve gained over the years. Best of all, they aren’t living in a silo with only their peers for daily interaction.
The Ray Family
We recently talked with one family with three generations living under the same roof. We heard from 86-year-old Ken about what it was like to live with his son, daughter-in-law and three teenage grandsons. Then it was Evan’s turn. At 15, Evan is the middle of the boys.
Ken was married for 53 years before losing his wife. Together they raised four sons and one daughter and have 17 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. Ken has lived with Bryan and Gina for nine years.
SI: What’s the biggest benefit of living with two younger generations?
Ken: Living with my son and his family keeps me young. I stay involved with everything they’re doing. I enjoy seeing the boys do the right things in life. That means a lot to me. We’re lucky – they’re not involved in a lot of the nonsense we see going on these days with young people.
SI: What’s your opinion about multigenerational living? Do you think we’ll see more of it in the future?
Ken: I believe we will see more of it. It’s so expensive to live in California. The younger generation can’t afford the lifestyle we were lucky to have. I personally know three people my age who are living with their kids.
I think we’re going to see a lot of changes in the way people live in California over the next 10 years. Population growth and the lack of affordable housing are going to have a significant impact on how we live.
SI: How do you create “alone time” living with a busy family? Do you need alone time?
Ken: I actually have a lot of time by myself. Both my son and daughter-in-law have demanding careers and the boys are busy with school and sports. I have no problem being by myself. My hobbies include reading and watching television, especially Angels games. I also like to walk every day, although I can’t walk the 10 miles I did when I was younger. I enjoy every day of my life.
SI: Do you participate in outside activities with other seniors?
Ken: Not like I used to. I’m very involved with my family and their activities. Once in a while I’ll go down to the senior center and visit with people.
SI: Have you ever disagreed with your son/daughter-in-law’s parenting decisions? How do you handle your feelings about this?
Ken: I don’t try to discipline the kids. I don’t interfere with how they’re raising their children. Bryan and Gina do a good job so I just keep my mouth shut.
SI: What’s the biggest difference you see between raising kids today vs. your son’s generation?
Ken: I think the biggest difference is kids today have too many electronic toys. They have so much more in general than my son’s generation – it’s hard for them to appreciate things. I sometimes get concerned about the amount of time they spend on their phone, iPads and electronic games. Seems like they can’t even come to the table without their phones! But I know they aren’t alone in this.
SI: Are there any drawbacks to multigenerational living?
Ken: Not for me. My family takes good care of me. I’m so lucky to have a good relationship with everyone. I know some people my age couldn’t handle it, but I have no difficulty at all and appreciate everything they do for me.
SI: What gives you the greatest joy as a result of living with your family?
Ken: Being around my grandchildren and watching them grow into very fine people has been a tremendous joy. I’m involved with their lives and they treat me well. Believe me, I know how lucky I am.
Evan, who will be a high school freshman this year, represents Generation Z. He had this to say about living with his granddad:
SI: What’s the best part about your grandpa living with you?
Evan: The best part is getting to hear his stories and life experiences. He also takes me places.
SI: Do you talk to your grandpa about school, friends, sports? What else do you share with him?
Evan: I mainly talk to him about sports, how my day was and my plans for the next day.
SI: Do you have friends whose grandparents live with them?
Evan: I have two. One is my best friend whose grandma lives with him. The other is my girlfriend. Her grandma lives with her and her family.
SI: What kind of relationship do you have with your grandpa? Do you consider him a friend or is he more like another parent?
Evan: I consider him as more of a parent because he acts just like another parent.
SI: Do you help your grandpa with technology? If so, how do you help?
Evan: I mainly help him with his iPhone and his TV.
SI: What’s the funniest thing your grandpa ever said?
Evan: That WiFi games are taking over people’s lives. He means video games but that’s okay.
SI: What do you think about older people? Are you comfortable being around them after living with your grandpa?
Evan: Yes, I am more comfortable around them because they are still human, just a lot older.
SI: What’s the best story your grandpa ever shared about when he was a kid?
Evan: His best stories are about his life on the farm in Missouri and the games he would play with his friends.
Thanks to Ken and Evan for sharing their multigenerational living experience with people decades older and younger than them. Ken represents the Greatest Generation, Evan the next generation. And kudos to Bryan and Gina for making it work as the Sandwich Generation.