• Greg Morgan

The Benefits of Intergenerational Living

Living with your relatives is common in many parts of the world, with financial and cultural reasons often bringing three of more generations together. While many Aussies and Kiwis live in share houses when they're young, the nuclear family is very much the norm later in life. Living trends are slowly changing, however, with people staying at home for longer and elderly parents sometimes moving back with their kids after they retire. While extended families and mixed generational homes are certainly not for everyone, intergenerational living can offer advantages to people at any stage of life.

Also known as multi-generational living, intergenerational living is the term used when more than one generation lives under the same roof. While this happens all the time when you have kids, the term is mostly applied to adult children who haven't left home and elderly parents who have moved back in with their children. According to the latest Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey, grown up children are remaining longer in the parental home, and also returning to the family home after they've moved out.

This trend can be seen across much of the western world, with rising property prices, expensive education, and reduced full-time employment leading to a decline in rental numbers and a rise in multi-generational living. While some people want to leave the nest as soon as they possibly can, others are keen to take advantage of lower living costs and housemates who they actually know and love. According to research compiled by City Futures Research Centre at UNSW, about 20 per cent of the Australian population lives in a multi-generational household.

There is a similar trend involving elderly people moving back with their kids, especially for migrant cultures with an accepting attitude towards extended family living. This way of living is common in many parts of the world, with families in places like Greece and Lebanon often adding rooms or entire floors to their home to accommodate their ageing parents. If you're thinking about adding a granny flat or extending your home to take care of your parents, flexible design with an eye to independent living is key.

As you might expect, intergenerational living offers financial benefits to all parties, especially when the people who own the home collect board from their kids or assistance from their parents to help pay the mortgage. Young people can avoid rising rents and access free accommodation, and elderly people can avoid expensive retirement homes and carers. Money is not the only advantage of multi-generational living, however, with people able to develop closer relationships with family members and learn valuable life lessons from people they care about.

Extended homes are a great option for people with young children who want to access free babysitting and childcare. Ageing parents are generally more than happy to look after their grandchildren, with the bond that develops between the generations absolutely priceless at any time of life. Isolation and loneliness continue to rise across the western world, with different generations of people able to support each other emotionally and financially as they cope with the challenges of modern living. With housing stress and rising living costs leading to a property affordability crisis across many parts of Australia and New Zealand, multi-generational homes are only likely to increase in future years.

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