Having a parent or parents come to share your home when you still have other children (maybe adult children) living with you is often considered a situation to avoid. The term “sandwich generation” refers to this situation where three generations share a home. Even though it may not be ideal for some, maintaining separate households among the generations of a family has become increasingly difficult since the Great Recession (2008) and continues through today. Many young people moved back home in the years following the recession and many have not left. And, making the number in the household larger, the eldest generation needed support too. With people living longer and sometimes outrunning their retirement funds while needing long-term care, many homes have three generations living under one roof.
Some prefer the separation
For many, the ability to live independently and flexibly, without the cares of either children or parents in the house, is a desirable situation. Many older Americans welcomed the “empty nest” when their grown children flew away and their own parents were still able to live on their own.
Some love the benefits of a multi-generational home
For some, responding to the needs that drive sharing a home among generations cannot be tolerated. For others being a “sandwiched” family is a lifestyle choice that has many advantages.
Here are five beneficial reasons why being in a multi-generational “sandwich” living arrangement can be desirable.
1. It’s trending
Almost a third of young people between the ages of 25 to 34 have moved in with Mom and Dad at some time over the last few years and know someone their age who has or is doing the same thing.
Almost half of Generation Xers have children, adult, and minor, living under their roofs. At the same time, their parents are seniors and need help.
Some 33% of baby boomers, seniors themselves, are in the sandwich position as their parents’ life spans climb and their adult children, facing a soft economy, need a hand.
A 2018 Pew Research Center report showed that in 2016 one-in-five Americans live in multigenerational households and the number is growing among all racial groups. The growth has slowed somewhat since the sharp increase between 2007 and 2009 which was the largest increase in history. Multigenerational living situations are still trending, and sandwich households are not uncommon.
2. Life in the same nest can be nice
Generation gap? Does a rebellious youth have difficulty with Mom and Dad’s values? These don’t seem to be problems for the majority of young adults. A full 78% of them find life with Mom and Dad quite satisfying.
Sharing a household also may allow Grandma and/or Grandpa to age in a loving family home instead of an institution. Social Security is still a significant part of many elderly Americans’ income, and it frequently isn’t enough to sustain independent living.
A multigenerational living situation also places Grandma and Grandpa squarely in a situation where help is in the next room.
3. A brighter economic picture
Sharing the bills with Mom and Dad gives young people some financial leverage to feel cheery about their financial futures, and some 77% feel that way.
It helps Mom and Dad too. Almost 50% of young adults pay rent to the parents and a full 90% say they have helped out financially in some way.
Grandma and Grandpa’s Social Security checks may not cover independent living, but they can take the edge off Mom and Dad’s mortgage. In fact, the Census Bureau found that people in multigenerational households had lower poverty rates than any other households, and a Harris survey found that 63% of multigenerational households benefitted from Grandma and Grandpa’s Social Security checks.
According to a Pew Research study, Mom and Dad received 25% of their income from intergenerational “guests”; sometimes they received as much as 50% of their income from adult children and aged parents combined in a three-generation home.
4. It is very family-friendly
82% of respondents to a Harris survey conducted for Generations United said that multigenerational living arrangements had “enhanced bonds and relationships” among family members.
Although 78% conceded that such an arrangement had their stresses, 75% said that it made providing for the care needs of one or more family members, including young children, those with special medical needs, and the elderly, much easier (which reduces family stress).
More than half of the respondents to the Harris survey said that their multigenerational living arrangement had helped at least one family member attain more job training or to go on in school. The support system not only serves as a safety net-it may serve to catapult some family members forward.
5. It’s rewarding
Almost 90% of adults in the United States (whether they live in a multigenerational situation or not) find it emotionally rewarding when they help their aged parents. What’s more, the same percentage feel rewarded by helping out their adult children too. Most do not feel that helping adult children and aging parents adds to their stress; most are as happy as others who are not sandwiched with a needy other generation and are just as satisfied with their lives.
These are all good reasons not to fear the sandwich generation and consider it as an option for your family. Share your stories about your sandwiched household!
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Fry, Richard. “More Millennials Living with Family Despite Improved Job Market.” Pew Research Center, Social and Demographic Trends, July 29, 2015. Available online at http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/07/28/more-millennials-living-with-family-despite-improved-job-market/st_2015-07-29_young-adult-living-01/.
D’Vera, Cohn and Passel, Jeffrey S. “A record 64 million Americans live in multigenerational households”, April 5, 2018, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/04/05/a-record-64-million-americans-live-in-multigenerational-households/
Parker, Kim. “The Boomerang Generation: Feeling OK about Living with Mom and Dad.” Pew Research Center, Social and Demographic Trends, March 15, 2012. Available online at: http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2012/03/15/the-boomerang-generation/.
Parker Kim. “Family Support in Graying Societies: How American, Germans, and Italians are Coping with an Aging Population.” Pew Research Center, Social and Demographic Trends, May 21, 2015. Available online at http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/05/21/family-support-in-graying-societies/.
Rusoff, Jame Wollman.”Advising the Squeezed ‘Sandwich Generation.'” Research Magazine. August 3, 2015. Available online at http://www.thinkadvisor.com/2015/08/03/advising-the-squeezed-sandwich-generation.
Generations United. “Family Matters: Multigenerational Families in a Volatile Economy,” 2011. Available online at: https://s3.amazonaws.com/pushbullet-uploads/ujzNDwQrsR2-Fh1i6OsVW1jTaFiBNeQjB0phNUWXMmgH/11-PublicPolicy-Report-Family-Matters-Multigen-Families.pdf