Too Close for Comfort? Senior Care Expert Says Intergenerational Living Presents Special Challenges

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The increasing number of seniors now living under the same roof with at least one other generation is a growing trend. The challenges that can arise from intergenerational living have prompted Home Instead Senior Care® to launch a public education campaign to help families determine if living together is a good idea. Helpful resources on living with a senior loved one are available at http://www.makewayformom.com.

Ask yourself, 'Can I get the whole family behind the idea?' When a decision is made to combine families, expectations must be set right away. Family members must listen and become engaged in conversation.

It's happening in the White House and in homes throughout the country. When President Obama's mother-in-law, Marian Robinson, settled in with her family in Washington earlier this year, they became part of a growing national trend.

The increasing number of seniors now living under the same roof with at least one other generation is more than just political news. According to a recent survey conducted for the local company Home Instead Senior Care 43 percent of adult caregivers in the U.S. (ages 35 to 62) reside with the parent, stepparent, or older relative for whom they or someone else in their household provides care (1). The Census Bureau confirms this growing trend: In 2000, 2.3 million older parents were living with their adult children; by contrast, in 2007, that number jumped to 3.6 million - a 55 percent increase (2 and 3).

The challenges that can arise have prompted Home Instead Senior Care to launch a public education campaign on intergenerational living to help families determine if living together is a good idea. The campaign includes resources that provide tips on how to make such an arrangement work well for seniors as well as their family caregivers if they decide to combine households. The campaign will also help adult children begin to address such issues as the stress of caregiving under one roof, adapting a home for two or more generations, and merging household finances.

Several factors are driving this trend, according to Paul Hogan, CEO and co-founder of Home Instead Senior Care. "We see families coming together to share family caregiving duties for economic reasons and emotional support," he said. "Sometimes the seniors need care, but in other instances the older adults could be providing care to their own grandchildren. Seniors may feel they need the emotional support of an extended family and, in these difficult economic times, financial assistance. Regardless of the reasons, combining households is a big decision. Some families may decide that maintaining separate residences is the best alternative."

At the center of the campaign is the Too Close for Comfort? handbook, available free from your local Home Instead Senior Care office, which addresses the emotional, financial, and comfort and safety issues of intergenerational living.

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 a consultant on reaching boomers and seniors; and Dan Bawden, founder of the CAPS (Certified Aging in Place Specialists) program for the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). The Make Way for Mom Web site provides additional support and information, including a calculator that will help 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?' 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," he noted.

"People need independence, but seeking interdependence and family unity are important as well, particularly in today's hectic and demanding world."

Sources:
1. Survey Methodology: The Boomer Project completed online interviews with 1,279 U.S. adult caregivers, ages 35-62, with a parent, stepparent or older relative for whom they or someone in their household provides cares. Of the 1,279 family caregivers interviewed, 548 live with the senior receiving care.

2. U.S. Census Bureau

3. U.S. Census Bureau

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Dan Wieberg
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