Pros and cons of moving in with adult children
In some cultures, ‘extended’ families traditionally live together, and it makes a lot of sense. Grandparents are close at hand to help with child minding and domestic tasks while adult children are out at work. In return, older family members enjoy company, and a comfortable home which they don’t have to maintain themselves. There’s no need for an elder to risk climbing a ladder to change a light bulb when there are younger, fitter adults around.
Financial benefits of moving in with adult children
Above all, there are financial benefits for all concerned. Sharing a home helps you save rent, electricity, insurance and maintenance. Depending on the set up, you may also share costly appliances like fridges, stoves, washing machines, TVs, vacuum cleaners and dishwashers.
Saving money is the number one reason why multigenerational families are more common across all cultures nowadays. Older people with insufficient retirement savings may have to move in with adult children once they stop working and can no longer afford rent and other living expenses.
Those who have accumulated a comfortable nest egg may decide to use their savings to help adult children buy a home, on the understanding that they will also live there. Or adult children are forced to move back in with their parents when they lose their job or can’t find employment.
Stronger family ties
Apart from the financial benefits, multigenerational families benefit from strong bonds and better mental health, since there is usually always someone to talk to.
Children enjoy more adult attention, which enhances their emotional development. Spending time with grandparents teaches them to be more considerate, caring and empathetic.
Older adults avoid the scourge of loneliness, and benefit from having someone to help them physically. Being around children also leads to a more active and involved lifestyle. As a result, older adults in multigenerational families tend to live longer.
Disadvantages of multigenerational living
Still, there are challenges when it comes to moving in with adult children, especially if the arrangement is new or forced on you owing to financial necessity. Expect more noise and less privacy. And be prepared for tensions to flare, especially at first.
Common trigger points are:
- Grandparents often have very different ideas about how children should be raised, leading to arguments and ill feeling.
- Children resent having to keep quiet, or share a room now that space has to be made for gran and gramps.
- Adult children take advantage of the situation, expecting grandparents to always be available to babysit, supervise homework or fetch the children from school.
Communication is key
Whether you want to live together, or are forced to do so by circumstances, be sure to thrash out how the living arrangements will work beforehand. How will household routines be affected? How will housework and chores be shared to avoid resentment? Who will pay for what?
If you share living spaces or a kitchen, don’t leave dirty dishes on the table or in the sink overnight. Ask before borrowing something from someone else. If they say no, accept it gracefully. Keep the volume on the TV low if it is disturbing others. Don’t bring your phone to the dinner table if you eat together.
If the rules are clear, it’s easy to tell when someone breaks them. However, patience and compromise are also crucial, especially during the settling in period when everyone is still feeling their way into the new arrangement.
Respect each other’s privacy
Just because you’re all living together in the same house doesn’t mean that you have to share every moment. Everyone has a right to privacy, and should be able to choose to spend time alone without interference or ill feeling.
If the grandchildren are very young, teach them not to just barge into granny or grandpa’s room. Knocking and waiting for an invitation to enter is common courtesy.
Encourage elderly parents to maintain their circle of friends and be comfortable going out on their own to visit them or to senior clubs and activities. Similarly, adult children should be able to go out as a family without feeling obliged to invite elderly parents along as well.
Set ground rules for children so they don’t get confused
Many arguments within extended families are triggered by the children’s behaviour. Grandparents interfere because they either think the children are ill disciplined, or that the parents are too strict. Remember that these are not your children.
Just as mom and dad need to present a united front when it comes to disciplining the children, grandparents also need to avoid undermining parents’ authority. If mom has said no to sweets before supper, and granny goes ahead and dishes out sweets regardless, there will obviously be conflict.
Moving in with adult children, rather than living alone, helps grandparents feel safer. Home security is also improved by their presence during the day when other adults are out at work. However, you may need to adapt the home to make it safer for elderly people. For example, installing grab rails and non-slip mats in the bathroom.
Fix and broken or uneven floor tiles, and apply an anti-slip coating if necessary. Make sure there is sufficient lighting where people walk and that there are no trailing electrical cords to trip over. You may need to remodel steps into a ramp and widen doorways if older adults use a wheelchair.
Grandparents need to make sure that their medication is stored safely away from small fingers.
Multigenerational living is may be a great way to save money and housing costs. But to reap all the benefits you need to set expectations in advance, and respect boundaries.
Encourage activities that enhance family ties. But don’t forget to allow for ‘time out’ as well. Everyone needs their own private space and time alone.