Multi-generational living. Bring it on.

I received a note the other day from a reader who was distressed at where she found herself in her mid-fifties. After caring for her mother and depleting her financial resources, she wound up moving herself and her mum in with her daughter and husband. Never having thought she’d be in a situation of such dependency has been a shocking and eye-opening experience for her.

When I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, it never, ever occured to me (perhaps naively?) that I might some day live in a city far away from my parents. As an adult, I came across country and settled in Los Angeles. My mother eventually moved in with me. In our case, it felt very right. I now have a multi-generational household. My daughter benefits from the wisdom of my mother. My mother feels useful and I gain a perspective I might never have gained on my own.

I remember growing up in a neighborhood where grandparents lived with their children. Don’t you? Who ever expected that so many people would have to go it alone? What I am seeing, very clearly, is a resurgence in multi-generational living developing out of sheer need. AARP addressed it in their recent interview with me. And there is no question that more and more parents are having to move in with their children due to financial constraints. The woman who wrote me is one of many. I hear stories like this all the time and in most cases, the one security they had counted on, their home, has been sold or financed to support this uncertain financial future. No one should ever have to go through the anguish of finding themselves without a cent to their name and not a job in sight.

I, the eternal optimist, want to grab for the positive side — we have a great opportunity in this big, big village to recapture the wisdom of the elders.

I find my mother wise. She considers herself a “young old”. I enjoy our political discussions, her views on books and films, her take on the world at large and in microcosm. So, what rule says that I should give up that privilege in search of total career-centric independance?

If I cannot afford to support myself when I become an “old old”, then I sure as heck hope that my years of wisdom will come in handy in securing me that extra bedroom in my career-oriented kid’s house while I watch over her seven-year old, just as my mom does for me.

2 thoughts on “Multi-generational living. Bring it on.

  1. Hi Wendy,

    Excited to find your blog this morning, especially this great post on the values inter-generational living. Housing for older people has become a huge issue, and to paraphrase one of my heroes, Frank Lloyd Wright, first we shape our environment, then it shapes us. I can see new opportunities here, for me personally, and for the 50+ audience served by http://www.2young2retire.com.

  2. I am optimistic that the aging baby boomer generation will alter the marginalization of the elder community that our culture has been doing for some time now.

    I think we will see creative ways for elders to be valued for their wisdom and experience and included in the community.

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