I was listening to NPR on the way to work earlier this week and they are starting an 8 week series on multigenerational households called “Family Matters.” Did you know that 1 in 6 Americans are currently living in a household with three generations or more? That’s 51.4 million people! The recent economic downturn hit our finances hard and many people have had to pool their resources and move in together.
Young adults age 18-24 have been hit hard and only 54% of them have jobs. Many of them moved back into their parents’ homes to save money. Americans are also living longer and the grandparents may have some financial trouble or need some physical assistance as well. As a result, many seniors have moved into their children’s household. The “sandwich” generation now bears the increasing cost of their aging parent’s needs and their boomerang kids.
First of all, I am from an Asian background and I think a multi-generation household is perfectly normal. I think it’s great for the kids to interact with their grandparents more and learn from their life experience. The grandparents can tell the kids about their roots and even teach them a little foreign language if applicable.
In America though, we value our independence and freedom highly and many older folks would rather stay in their own home. It’s difficult to ask for help when you have been independent your whole life and have been used to doing things the way you want. That’s why it amazed me to see that 1 in 6 Americans are living together. Mrs. RB40’s grandma owned her home and was in a very good financial position in her old age. Her children also lived nearby and she was able to stay in her home and be independent for a very long time. Eventually she had a stroke and needed more assistance and moved into an assisted living facility. This is what I thought most Americans would like to do if they had a serious health issue. No one wants to burden their kids with their medical needs.
Multigenerational Household in Thailand
On the other hand, my maternal grandmother lived with one of her 9 children (rotation) when she was old. In her last year, she had stomach cancer and a brain tumor. She stayed at the hospital for a long time after the operation and eventually moved into one of my uncle’s home for the last few months of her life. My mom was semi retired by then and stopped working to help care for her. It was a difficult period but she was glad she was there for her mom when she needed help.
In Thailand, many more seniors live with their children and a multigenerational household is the norm. Many kids stay on with their parents until they get married or even longer. Generally a bride will move into her groom’s family household or is it the other way around? Anyway, it is accepted that the children will care for their parents. I’m sure there are many more assisted living facilities now, but most families still care for their older generation at home.
It is very different here in the US. Most of us would rather live in our own space and take care of ourselves for as long as we can. Rough finances may have forced the generations to live under the same roof, but I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing. I think a multigenerational household builds closer family ties and it shows the younger generation that we take care of our own. I wouldn’t mind if my parents move in with us when they are older and need some assistance. We would probably have to move to a bigger home to accommodate everyone, but it can be done. Mrs. RB40 on the other hand, is going to need a lot of convincing.
What about you? Assuming your finances can handle it, would you rather move to an assisted living facility or move in with your children? Sandy at First Gen American is house hunting for a place that can accommodate Babci (her mom) so I’m not the only one thinking about this. I’m really looking forward to the next episode of this series on NPR next Tuesday.