LAFAYETTE, Ind. -– When President Obama’s mother-in-law, Marian Robinson, settled in with her family in Washington D.C. earlier this year, she became part of a growing national trend – seniors living under the same roof with at least one other generation. In 2000, 2.3 million older parents were living with their adult children, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. By contrast, in 2007, that number jumped 55 percent to 3.6 million.
“Several factors are driving this trend,” said Chris Irons, owner of the Lafayette office of Home Instead Senior Care, a national franchise company providing in-home, non-medical care to seniors that conducted original research on the issue. “Certainly finances are an issue in today’s economy, but we also see families coming together to share care giving duties and for emotional support.”
While intergenerational living has its rewards, the challenges of living with Mom and Dad can be just as great.
“According to our recent research, 72 percent of adults who have a senior living under their roof say caring for them has been rewarding,” said Irons. “On the other hand, the same percentage says they live too close to their loved ones and rate their stress as a five on a scale of one to five.”
Forty-one percent of those surveyed by Home Instead Senior Care said the worst thing about being a caregiver is finding no time for themselves.
The challenges that can arise from combined households have prompted Home Instead Senior Care, a company serving the Lafayette and surrounding areas, to launch a public education campaign to help families determine if living together is a good idea and provide tips on how to make such an arrangement work.
At the center of the campaign is a handbook that discusses the stress of care giving under one roof, adapting a home for two or more generations, merging household finances, and senior proofing your home for safety, Irons said.
The handbook was compiled with the assistance of three national experts: Matthew Kaplan Ph.D., Penn State Intergenerational Programs extension specialist; Adriane Berg, CEO of Generation Bold; and Dan Bawden, founder of the CAPS (Certified Aging in Place Specialists) program for the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). A Web site www.makewayformom.com provides additional support and information, including a calculator that helps families compute and compare whether living together or maintaining separate residences is the best financial option.
In addition, the Web site features a virtual tour of an intergenerational home where visitors can hear from a real family and see firsthand how they’ve adapted their home.
Penn State’s Matt Kaplan said that families should approach decisions of combining households from a partnership perspective.
“Ask yourself, ‘Can I get the whole family behind the idea?’” he said. “When a decision is made to combine families, expectations must be set right away. Family members must listen and become engaged in conversation.”
The more the entire family buys in at the beginning, the more likely they will be to come up with great ideas, said Kaplan.
“Regardless of the reasons for combining households, the move is a big decision,” said Irons. “Some families may decide that maintaining separate residences is the best alternative.”
For more about the emotional issues of intergenerational living, log on to www.makewayformom.com or contact the Lafayette Home Instead Senior Care office at (765) 447-8800 for the free “Too Close for Comfort?” handbook.