"How to Keep the Peace in a Multigenerational Household"

"The recent economic recession, which has caused job losses and home foreclosures, and the increasing senior population have fueled an upsurge of three or more generations living under the same roof. Today, an estimated 51.5 million Americans live in multi-generational households.

Both younger and older people benefit from sharing a home – babies to teenagers receive special attention from grandparents, seniors feel less isolated and lonely, and young adults sense more stability as they attend college and start careers. Shared living space can be ideal for closer-knit relationships and dividing home responsibilities, but not without some adjustments and compromise. Here are a few tips for successful blending of generations in one home:

Preparation – Evaluate how the home accommodates everyone’s needs. Seniors may need fewer stairs and a walk-in shower, while children need safe room to play. Work through the division of finances including mortgage/rent, utilities, food, home maintenance, etc. Those with limited finances may pitch in with more household duties to help share the load.

Communication – Plan and stick to regular family discussions to address expectations and issues. Cover specifics on handling meal preparation, private and shared space, furniture use, television habits, entertaining, and shared family times. How much should the grandparents babysit and how will older grandchildren help with an elder’s caregiving needs?

Flexibility – Allow for independence and personal space and learn to give and take as individual needs fluctuate over time. Teens like to spend time with their friends, and seniors should not impose on parenting preferences.

Consistency – Hold to routines for mealtimes and bedtimes and maintaining exercise and social commitments. Schedule family fun times and be intentional about making memories through shared stories and photos or enjoying interests and outings together.

Make sure each member of the household knows where to locate important information such as a Living Will or Health Care Surrogate designation. Have a family conference to discuss the needs and wishes of elder members in the event of sudden illness or hospitalization. Each member should be aware of others desires in the event of a health crisis where the patient cannot speak for him/her self."

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