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Money & Policy

When Parents Move In With Their Boomer Kids

It's happening more often, so here are 5 tips to keep your home happy


(This article appeared originally on MarketWatch.com.)

Amy Goyer moved from Alexandria, Va., to Arizona about five years ago; her parents moved into a senior living community, and she moved into their home of 30 years. But when her mother and father’s health required that they need full-time care three years later, Goyer's parents moved back into the house with their daughter to cut costs.

 
“If they moved in the house with me, they could save the housing expense, and their money went to pay live-in care workers [during the week],” said Goyer, who serves as AARP.org’s caregiving/grandparenting expert. Plus, living in the home would be more comfortable for her mother (who had suffered a stroke and had other health issues) and her father (who is coping with Alzheimer’s disease).

And it would be more convenient for Goyer to help on the weekends. Instead of having to drive — even a couple of miles away — to see her parents, she could spend quality time with them and do her laundry at the same time. Her sister flies in to help when Goyer needs to travel.

(MORE: Surviving Multigenerational Living)

Reverse Boomerang?
 
While much has been written about millennial children boomeranging back to live with their parents, there’s another group of people who have been quietly doubling up: boomers and their own aging parents. And some expect this particular trend to hold up even with an improving economy, as people live longer and require more care at the end of their lives.
 
A recent survey by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) found that dedicated guest rooms, including in-law suites (that can be as simple as a secondary master bedroom suite with a bathroom), have been gaining in popularity over the past couple of years.

In 2014, 39 percent of respondents in a group of more than 500 residential architecture firms said they were seeing more demand for this feature, compared with 10 percent in 2012. Also getting hotter: Home features that accommodate multiple generations and aging-in-place features.

(MORE: Backyard Cottage for Mom and Dad)

 
“As many households become caretakers for aging relatives, separate living suites have become popular options for accommodations,” said Kermit Baker, chief economist for AIA,in a news release.
 
What’s more, an analysis from the real estate website Trulia found that there has been an increase in the share of seniors living with relatives over the past 20 years. That’s largely due to the fact that more of them today are foreign born and that their average age has increased, said Jed Kolko, Trulia’s chief economist. Today there are more eightysomethings than in the past, he said.
 
“This is not a story about the housing bust. The increase of seniors living with relatives is a long-term demographic shift,” he said. Six percent of U.S.-born seniors live with relatives, while 25 percent of foreign-born seniors live with relatives. For those born in countries including India, Vietnam, Haiti and the Philippines, the share of seniors living with relatives is even higher, Kolko added.
 
Looking to the future, there’s also this: As Americans age in the coming decades, there will be fewer family caregivers to help them, according to an AARP report.

In 2010, there were a potential seven caregivers for every American over 80; that's expected to drop to seven by 2030, partly due to Americans having smaller families. As the caregiving burden for an aging relative falls on one or two people, it’s possible that more might consider this living situation.

 
Chipping In for a Remodel
 
Sometimes, aging parents will front the costs for creating extra space in their grown children’s homes, whether through a remodel of an existing home or the building of an extra suite in a new one, said Harold “Bud” Dietrich, an architect in the Tampa Bay, Fla., area. Other times, their children have the foresight in, perhaps, their 40s, to purchase a home with spaces that will serve their aging parents down the road — assuming they will ultimately live with them.
 
These suites can be as simple as a second master bedroom and bath or as elaborate as a wing with a bedroom, kitchenette, sitting area, bathroom and separate door to the outside, Dietrich said. Often, these areas are made to be accessible, largely to prevent trips and falls.
 
Of course, not everyone has the money to make big changes to a home. But even if you can’t add on another suite, there are a few things you can do to make your home more suitable, Goyer said. For instance, she installed grab bars in the showers, used motion-activated night lights, and got offset hinges for the doors, so her mother could easily roll her wheelchair through the doorways.

(MORE: Transforming Life As We Age)

 
5 Tips for a Smooth Move In
 
Goyer also has the following five suggestions for those planning on living with their aging parents:
 
1. Keep communication open. Have regular times when the family sits down and talks about concerns. That way, it’s not as awkward to bring up that Grandma plays the TV too loudly, for example.
 
2. Create private space for everyone. Having an “escape” on the other side of the house or earmarking personal space will help family members feel more comfortable — even if the space is small, Goyer said. Maybe Grandma always gets her favorite recliner, for example, she said. Moreover, if you’re a part of a couple — and especially if there are kids in the house, too — make sure to carve out regular time to reconnect as well.
 
3. Keep routines going — yours and theirs. Don’t expect that moving your parents in means you have built-in babysitters. They need to keep up routines, too, whether it’s meeting with friends or watching a favorite program.
 
4. Be realistic. You can only stuff so much furniture into one house, and people can only adjust and change their lives so much. Have realistic expectations for everyone.
 
5. Take advantage of the opportunity. In the end, this is extra time you get to spend with your parents. Enjoy it. Before her mother died last year, Goyer liked to watch Saturday Night Live with her mom each week. If you have children in the house, they will grow up getting to know their grandparents better. Events such as family game night are opportunities to make memories with the entire family.
Amy Hoak is a MarketWatch editor and columnist based in Chicago. Follow her on Twitter @amyhoak.
 

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