Multi-generational or independent living? What to consider

4 minute read

Adult father and son cooking together in a kitchen

Modern living is changing, with multi-generational households on the rise. We examine the practical, legal and cost implications of living with family, independent living and retirement homes.

How we live is changing. Younger people stay at home longer, sometimes into their 30s. There are more choices in assisted and independent retirement living. Meanwhile, some older family members live with their adult children and grandchildren in multi-generation arrangements.

A recent report, multi-generational housing, shows that 1.8 million households now contain two or more adult generations. This trend is expected to grow as our society ages.

Some of these changes are driven by cost. Younger generations may need to save longer to buy their own home, while some families struggle to meet care costs or find affordable retirement homes.

Sometimes it is about living how we want and, ideally, being able to choose.


How to make multi-generational living work

Living with your family can offer companionship and support be it financial, emotional or physical. It can also present challenges.

The lifestyle of a twenty-something will likely be very different to that of their parents or grandparents and affects their needs at home. Taking the time to understand each person’s needs and finding the right solutions together can make things easier. What are the expectations around things like cooking and mealtimes, or doing chores? How will you ensure people get the level of privacy they need and is everyone comfortable with guests visiting or staying overnight?

It's important to think about physical needs too. Is there enough room to comfortably house everyone and their belongings, and do you need to allocate space for particular uses or at certain times such as providing a quiet area for someone working from home?

Discussing and planning the practical arrangements upfront can help avoid problems later on.


Multi-generational living: take care of legal things

Think too about the legal aspects of ownership and costs. It’s important to agree on how to divide bills, who owns the property and who is responsible for its upkeep.

Depending on your circumstances it may make sense to consult a lawyer to work through the details so everyone’s needs can be met fairly – and get an agreement in writing.


The joy of independent living at home

Of course, not everyone can or wants to live with their family. Many adapt their own, much-loved home for the future. When planning ahead, consider:


  • Accessibility: how easy is it to get into and move about your home? If stairs are likely to become a problem, could a stairlift be installed, or even a compact lift?
  • Personal care: baths and showers may need a redesign to reduce the chances of slipping or falling. A wet room can be a good option, while a fold-down seat under a shower can really benefit those with mobility issues.
  • Maintenance, costs and upkeep: a smaller property may be easier and cheaper to clean, heat and maintain.
  • Assisted living: personal care can help you live independently later on in life. You could also think about in-home security and personal alarms.


Choosing retirement and care homes

The same careful approach is needed when considering retirement and care homes. Try to get recommendations from families with relatives who are residents, as well as from the Care Quality Commission.

Visit with a friend or family member to get a sense of what staying there is like. What are the staff like? What are all the costs involved, and are they fully documented? Is your room always yours or could you be moved around?

Care homes can be expensive and costs can vary so check any agreements carefully in advance.


Different approaches to later-life living

Of course there are other choices for how we live now. Some people opt to live with friends or siblings, while others prefer sheltered housing where they can retain their independence but with the benefit of services like 24-hour security and support staff on hand.

And there are examples of people creating their own communities like New Ground in London where a group of women, all over 50, have created a friendly community in 25 purpose-built flats. Rather than living alone, they share communal facilities and enjoy independence in their own homes.

It is one example of how house builders are likely to be looking at new ways to design homes in the future.

Whatever your future holds, taking the time to think about your needs and plan can give you more choices about where, how and with whom you live.


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