It’s no secret America is steeped in an ethos of fierce independence. But with the surge in our aging population, perhaps that attitude is starting to change. Various approaches to communal and multigenerational housing have been practiced globally throughout history. As America moves in that direction again, there may be strong implications for the future of senior housing and elder care. Here are a few recent indicators:
Quality, Not Quantity
It used to be that moving back in with our parents smacked of instability or lack of ambition. Lately, though, that attitude seems to be shifting. Sam Ro at Business Insider notes the steep rise in 18-34-year-olds moving back in with their parents. The change, he notes, is that they don’t seem in a hurry to move out.
This reluctance may be financially-based, but perhaps the explanation is also cultural. The percentage of Americans living with their parents is relatively low across OECD countries. Additionally, in the study Ro cites, “70% of the crosscountry variation in living with parents cannot be explained by labor market conditions or other observable factors. . . Cultural factors—which are harder to quantify—thus seem to play an important role too.”
Interdependence Takes Center Stage
A 2013 Boston Globe article explores the changing attitudes of baby-boomers toward communal living, compared with those of their parents. Dr. Bill Thomas, a New York-based author and geriatrician says, “To [the older generation], living alone is the only measure of success, but the boomers’ comfort with interdependence means there are many options.” Those options include multigenerational cohousing communities, or a variety of other creative options, including home sharing, niche communities, or the village concept, which creates networks of service providers for neighborhood access.
In 2012, the U.S. census reported that more than 56 million Americans were living with at least two adult generations under one roof. In a 2011 brief on multigenerational planning, the American Planning Association suggests integrating the needs of both young and old with programs designed to “break down age-segregated barriers.” Multigenerational housing developments and colocation of elder care and child care are two ideas the APA offers to help all generations grow more interdependent in their awareness.
An Ounce of Prevention
Planning for generational interdependence now drives a particular niche of housing development. According to a recent Atlantic article, Toll Brothers, one of the largest homebuilding companies in America, is answering a rising demand for houses designed to accommodate multiple generations. Johns Hopkins sociologist Andrew Cherlin talks of a “sandwich generation,” one which is simultaneously caring for children and offering help to aging parents. The age of the children receiving help is rising, with
In the article, Johns Hopkins sociologist Andrew Cherlin talks of a “sandwich generation,” one which is simultaneously caring for children and offering help to aging parents. The age of the children receiving help is rising, as is the age of the so-called sandwich generation, as is the cost of long-term health care. All of these factors are spurring more Americans to think about how they can build their homes with multiple generations in mind.
How will Senior Housing respond?
Now may be the right time to consider whether similar approaches can specifically address any challenges facing senior housing and elder care communities today.
To extend the conversation further, A Place for Mom offers 8 Predictions for the Future of Senior Care.