It’s difficult to pinpoint the actual number of aging parents who – either by choice or by necessity – are moving in with their adult children, but the figure is definitely on the rise. We decided to take a look at this “reverse boomerang effect,” as some have called it, in order to let our AgingOptions blog readers know what several senior housing experts have to say about the practice. The bottom line is pretty clear: having a parent or parents living under the same roof with their adult kids (and, typically, grandkids) can be a wonderful lifestyle, but it can’t be entered into lightly. Careful planning and preparation are required.
The Number of Aging Parents Living with Adult Children is Rising Dramatically
First off, how common is the practice? According to statistics from the Pew Research Center, it would appear that between 5 and 6 million adults live in a household headed by their own adult child. That represents a 67 percent increase since 2007, at the beginning of the last big economic recession. According to Pew, “While the rise in shared living during and immediately after the recession was attributed in large part to a growing number of Millennials moving back in with their parents, the longer-term increase has been partially driven by a different phenomenon: parents moving in with their adult children.” No doubt the reasons for this growth in aging parents sharing a house with the kids are complex and highly individual: some families are driven by economic considerations while others have a strong cultural desire to care for their own flesh and blood. But regardless of the motive, the potential for friction and misunderstanding is always lurking nearby.
Aging Parents Living with Adult Children: Good Intentions, Challenging Outcomes
This paragraph from an article on a website called AgingCare expresses the problem well. “Regardless of who moves in with whom,” writes author Carol Bradley Bursack, “the decision to cohabitate with aging parents is a serious one that affects all relationships within a family, careers, finances, and the physical and mental health of everyone involved. For some, the arrangement works out fine. Two or even three generations residing in the same home can be a good thing. It works best when there is plenty of space so that everyone has some degree of privacy, when there is respect for one another, when there is plenty of cooperation and when respite is built into the arrangement from the beginning. Adequate planning beforehand is crucial for success.”
Sadly, from Bursack’s perspective, the best of intentions don’t always turn out as planned as the reality of the new arrangement become clear. “Many families are forced to make knee-jerk decisions following a health setback,” she writes. “Some parents simply show up on their children’s doorsteps ready to move in. Others may find themselves trapped in what was supposed to be a temporary situation while devising a long-term solution. I think it’s safe to say based on the correspondence I’ve received from caregivers and the posts I’ve read in the AgingCare Forum over the years that things may start off okay, but they steadily go downhill for most families. Adult children end up feeling hemmed in by the promises they made, by the financial needs of the entire household and by guilt.”
Ways to Prepare for Aging Parents Living with Adult Children
So, if you and your family are determined to avoid that gloomy prospect, there are steps you can take ahead of time to avoid some of the pitfalls and make expectations clear. For that we turn to this recent article from the USNews website. Writer Rodney Brooks offers a few succinct recommendations that can make the transition to shared housing smoother. Here are his major points.
- Prepare Yourself Financially for a New Household Member. It may seem obvious, but your living costs will rise with an extra adult living under your roof. From health care needs to food costs to utilities, the cost of supporting another dependent will disrupt your budget. Families need to determine whether the parent will be contributing toward household costs, and they also need to be clear-minded about what other spending may need to be reduced and major life plans altered. As one financial analyst told USNews, “The adult children may not be prepared for the fact that having their parents move in might have an impact on how they save for retirement.”
- Consider Hiring Help. Many people want to care of their parents themselves, only to find themselves quickly overwhelmed when the parent has significant health problems. “You could hire a home health aide during your working hours or use an adult day health care service, but this can be expensive in many parts of the country,” says the article. The unpaid caregiver – often an adult daughter or daughter-in-law – can end up reducing her hours or quitting work entirely, putting a further strain on the budget. If other relatives are living nearby, enlist their support as part of the caregiving team.
- Prepare Your Home Properly. You can’t bring an elderly parent into an unsafe home, Brooks warns. “Consider whether your parents will be able to handle stairs, or if they will need a bedroom on the first floor. Find out if your doorways are wide enough for wheelchair access and if you might need to install wheelchair ramps.” An internet search on “aging in place” can take you to a host of resources including this Aging in Place checklist from the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors.
- Plan Ahead for a New Family Dynamic. “If there’s a possibility of one or both parents moving in with you, start a conversation about the transition as early as possible,” says USNews. It’s hard to make clear decisions in the middle of a family crisis. Also, since adding a senior adult to your household will disrupt schedules and priorities, make sure all responsible household members are clued into the conversation.
Speaking of checklists, for a comprehensive one that deals with all aspects of aging parents moving in with their adult kids, check out this article from AARP published in early 2018.
Planning and Preparation are the Keys to Retiring Successfully
Housing arrangements, financial planning, medical coverage, legal protection, family dynamics – these are all critically important elements that belong in your retirement plan. For a unique and refreshing view of how these can all work together interdependently, we invite you to join Rajiv Nagaich from AgingOptions for a free event called a LifePlanning Seminar. A LifePlan, as you’ll discover, is your blueprint to help you create the safe, secure, and joyful retirement you’ve been hoping for. We offer these seminars throughout the Puget Sound area. Please visit our Live Events page and register for the event of your choice – or call us during the week for assistance. We’ll look forward to welcoming you to a LifePlanning Seminar soon.
(originally reported at https://money.usnews.com)