Imagine a senior couple living this scenario:
The empty nest has never looked better. The kids are long grown and living in far-flung locales, one on the West coast, another in Europe. Thanks to technology, you and your spouse visit often with the grandchildren via FaceTime, and keep up with their lives on social media. It’s all good.
And now that you’ve applied for a HECM, you’ll be able to spruce up the other half of your duplex, and perhaps turn it into an Airbnb.
[Cue ripping sound]
Your adult daughter and her husband, who have been living abroad for more than two decades, are coming home. Literally. With their 6-year-old twins. They want to rent the duplex you’re remodeling. And they’d like to stay with you until that space is ready.
This is the flip side of a senior asking to come live with grown children, though most of the issues worth exploring are similar. While it might sound fictitious, a senior woman just posted this exact inquiry on an online bulletin board, requesting advice.
Setting Smart Boundaries
How can a senior couple, or senior single, prepare to share their home with grown children and grandchildren?
Multigenerational living arrangements are actually more common than people think. And there are ways to make it not just work, but flourish.
Before anyone moves house, it’s wise to hold a family meeting — even if it’s via Skype or Google Hangouts — to clarify some critical expectations:
- Where will everyone sleep?
- Who is responsible for childcare? Moving in does not confer automatic babysitting services, unless grandma or grandpa welcomes the opportunity to do so.
- What is an acceptable level of noise/quiet? If a mature single or couple has lived in relative peace and quiet for a long while, the sudden introduction of other family members, especially babies or young children, can ratchet up the volume.
- How will you divide housing expenses if you’re all in one space? If a duplex or granny unit has a separate metering system for utilities, will the parents present a monthly bill to their children?
- Who disciplines the children when it’s your house and the grandkids are guests?
Thriving in Community
To focus on the positive aspects of home sharing, whether it’s a duplex, granny unit, or single family home, be explicit about “Rules of the Casa” just as you would in a work environment. For instance:
- Create space for clear, open conversation with minimal distractions.
- Emphasize that this will be an ongoing process.
- Own your “no”.
- Clarify when you can, or don’t want to be, interrupted (e.g., “Can I text you after 10?”)
- Know what bugs you. Write it down, and share it as an “I” message. (“I’d appreciate it if you wash any dishes you use, and do your own laundry.”)
- Decide if you want to take turns cooking and dividing up household jobs.
- Focus on “What can we do together and when?” rather than a rigid separation of generations.
Families reuniting, whether for a few weeks or long-term, can be a positive experience for everyone involved. Having the younger generation(s) under roof or a stone’s throw away may even prove to be advantageous in the long run, as mom and dad grow older and their needs change.