When a parent moves in…

by michellerogers on May 2, 2009

It’s happening in the White House and in homes throughout  the United States. 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 million2 older parents were living with their adult children; by contrast, in 2007, that number jumped to 3.6 million3 – a 55 percent increase.

A handbook, Too Close For Comfort 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).  A Web site www.makewayformom.com  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.

Home Instead Senior Care, offer these tips:

  1. Take a family partnership perspective.  Everyone needs to be informed and to give input into household arrangements.
  2. Set expectations right away.  Avoid conflict by working to ensure upfront that family members see eye-to-eye about each person’s roles and responsibilities.
  3. Ask for help.  Engage children in responsibilities around the home and make it clear to adult siblings that you want them to be involved.  If extended family will not help with respite care, arrange for a professional caregiver service.
  4. Make family unity key.  Strive for routines, rituals and traditions that bring the family together including family movie night or a walk. 
  5. Find threads of common interest and build on those to develop family activities that are conducive to building deeper relationships.  Focus on something very simple that seems to generate a common bond, such as ethnic cooking, family history, health or wellness.
  6. Keep lines of communication open.  Recognize the importance of private time and family time for every member of the household.  Visit www.4070talk.com for more information.
  7. Distinguish between private space and shared space.  Shared space should be stocked with material inviting for all ages and items that could stimulate discussion, such as a child’s project or “brag book” of photos.  Make clear rules regarding the private spaces set aside for each member of the household.

 For more about the emotional issues of intergenerational living, log on to www.makewayformom.com or contact your local Home Instead Senior Care office for the free “Too Close for Comfort?” handbook.

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