Guest post written by Andrew Statz of New Avenue Homes
What we saw long ago on All in the Family and Everyone Loves Raymond, we now see in real life. Grandparents living in the same households as their children and grandchildren. It has become common in primetime family comedies and is becoming more and more common in our daily lives and reality. Recently there has been a tremendous shift in the cultural attitudes toward the idea of multi-generational living, which is the idea of living with our children while they raise their own children all within the same household. There are many causes for this paradigm shift in our attitudes towards living with our extended families. One being the tremendous growth of the retired but active population within the U.S. and another being the cost of housing and difficult job market for recent college graduates.
Traditionally elder parents try to practice the “age in place” ideal of staying in their homes for as long as possible. Once they can no longer financially afford, or physically maintain their homes do they regrettably move. Depending on family dynamics and ailments we consider inviting our children to live with us in our own households assuming we have the space, or we consider a nursing home if medical attention/monitoring is consistently required. Based on a Forbes article and the work done by CAPABLE (Community Aging in Place, Advancing Better Living for Elders) Project1 the issues affecting elders living by themselves are their ability to bath, cook, and manage their medications. They estimate that by managing these basic regiments, CAPABLE participants can “reduce their likelihood of admission into a nursing home by 40% over a year”. Furthermore there is the issue of senior loneliness, as they see their families living in separate households, and their shrinking social circles, and loss of their spouses.
Several companies are emerging that focus on improving your home for longer term living. One such firm is New Avenue Homes (NewAvenueHomes.com). This company focuses on the design and construction of accessory dwellings (also known as backyard cottages, in law units, or even granny shacks), on the same property as an existing single-family home. The additions are small houses that are separated from the main house with their own entrances and amenities such as bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms. These units typically measure from 300 square feet to no more than 700 square feet.
Recent research by New Avenue found that a large percentage of their baby boomer clientele construct an accessory dwelling for many uses. Prior to their own move to rightsizing their home by moving out of the main home and into the accessory dwelling, they use the accessory dwellings for rental income or general utility as a guesthouse. They have found that their clients have chosen to do this for a combination of reasons including maintaining independence in the future, and to be able to provide support for their children and grandchildren. When interviewing the baby boomers how their lifestyle has been impacted since moving into their accessory dwelling, both the residents in the accessory dwelling and the residents in the main home list a general improved quality of life and sense of increased happiness. They talk about the comfort of knowing their children and grandchildren are located in such a close proximity, but having their own domicile maintains a sense of independence, privacy, and not feeling like they are “intruding” into each other’s household space.
Another aspect of the choice to construct an accessory dwelling was the economics of it. Families are able to coordinate between generations what specific design options are appropriate for their aging parents, such as specialty baths and railings for support and easy entry/exit. Constructing a 650 square foot granny cottage in the San Francisco Bay Area (One of the most expensive places to build in the US) costs around $250,000. However when properly financed, annual costs (including property taxes, maintenance and mortgage costs) are less than $$1,500 per month. Compared with the national average of $2,969 per month 2 for an assisted-living facility, not to mention this does not include the entry fee ranging from $60,000 to $120,000. Furthermore the quality of housing provided in these assisted living facilities pale in comparison to a custom designed home in your own community.
At the end of the day, when you look past the tangible and intangible benefits afforded by an accessory dwelling, the discussion turns to how multigenerational living has affected both the grandparent the parents and the grandchildren. The wisdom a grandchild can take away from spending more time with their grandparents, the sense of ease knowing your aging parent lives in such close proximity are all aspects of the multigenerational household. Multigenerational living appears to be catching on and in today’s economic and demographic environment, it is here to stay.