Multigenerational Homes Blog
Erik Listou, Co-Founder Living In Place Institute with contributors Dani Polidor and Julie Schuster 
 
    

 

Why should we look carefully at multigenerational homes?

Through my recent research, I learned that about one in five Americans now live in multigenerational homes and 41% of Americans buying a home are considering accommodating an elderly parent or an adult child, from a survey conducted by John Burns Real Estate Consulting. And, according to CNN, more than half of middle-income seniors – nearly 8 million older adults – cannot afford independent living or assisted living communities, nor skilled nursing homes and facilities.


We at the Living In Place Institute are committed to helping professionals understand important issues and prepare their businesses for the future. In our Blogs, we will share some of the history, trends, visions for the future, and how the industry is responding. This month’s Blog, focus is multigenerational homes. Thank you for reading our Blogs and advancing the conversations to create solutions for all ages. If you would like to listen live to our contributors share their insights and answer your questions, join them in both of our virtual October Community Forums.
 

                                           Is this new?
 
Throughout history families have always tried to live together as desires and needs allowed, but the term “multigenerational” first appeared around 1961. In the past when home care was not feasible for an older family member, housing options were limited, most common were an almshouse or poorhouse, typically without age-exclusive medical care. The concept of specialized long-term health care facilities for the elderly became popular in the 19th century as nursing homes. The need for better housing increased as world population grew, and societies expanded the traditional family borders.

 
Fast forward to this century

Households containing two or more generations fell from 21% in 1950 to 12% in 1980. Government programs, including from the Federal Housing Administration, provided funds that increased the number of nursing homes in the 1950s and 60s, leading to our present variety of long-term care environments, including independent and skilled nursing facilities. But what about those who do not need full time medical care?



After 1980, multigenerational homes began increasing. The number of Americans living in a multigenerational home rose to 20% by 2016, as we see in this chart from Pew Research.

From the pivotal 2010 AARP study, “Fixing to Stay”, “If they need help caring for themselves, most respondents prefer not to move from their current home (82%). Only a few express a preference for moving into a facility where care is provided (9%) or moving to a relative’s home (4%).”




 

Now add in the Pandemic of 2020

Since the research organization started tracking data 14 years ago, the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC) reported the lowest occupancy rates for independent and assisted living facilities. Occupancy in 2020 dropped more in assisted living (a 3.2% decline from April through June, compared with January through March) than in independent living (a 2.4% decline). NIC does not compile data on nursing homes.
In a separate NIC survey of senior housing executives in August 2020, 74% said families had voiced concerns about multigenerational living as Covid-19 cases spiked in many parts of the country.




 
Young adults living with their parents associated with the COVID-19 pandemic is on the rise, as we see in this graph from Pew Research.
As reported in the Wall Street Journal article on September 21, 2020, a June 2020 survey by the Pew Research Center found that 22% of 9,700 respondents had moved due to the pandemic or knew someone who had. Most of those who had moved were now living with family.

 
What current trends are you seeing for multigenerational homes?

Says Julie, “As families begin to adjust to these new changes, the American home will change as well. I see a future in which homes will have both communal and separate quarters for the different generations. These will offer advantages to every age group, not just the oldest and youngest members. The current stress levels of the "sandwich generation", or those who have both aging parents and young children in the home, will certainly impact homes in the future. Knowing someone is there to help monitor persons with needs, as well as supervising children participating in virtual education and after-school activities, is both cost effective and allows for much greater peace of mind, as well as many other advantages for both the oldest and the youngest.”
I recently talked to home experts Julie Schuster and Dani Polidor (please pause and read their bios below) about their clients’ desire and needs for multigenerational homes and asked questions about current trends, what they think the future will hold, and most importantly, how can the industry best prepare to meet these needs.

Dani told me, “I grew up in a 4-generational family in Germany and it was a dream. My Grandparents easily straddled the age ranges. They were hard-working and authentic as they reinvented themselves, collaborated and rebuilt, after unimaginable trauma and destruction in Post-War Europe.

This brave new world has forced us to slow down, then speed up and recognize that the acceptance of the new normal is not as temporary as the two weeks we all initially hoped for. Social distancing, convalescing, and ultimately leaving our homes on our terms is the brave new world! Becoming CLIPP (Certified Living In Place Professional) certified cemented my commitment to make all spaces. Safe - Healthy - Comfortable.

Safety and security have been the cornerstone of design and construction. We have always set high expectations of health, safety, and welfare. Wellness and ergonomics are now on the wish-list for every remodel and new construction. Environmental recommendations are also part of the discussion and accepted without a second thought. As technology advances, early adopters led the charge, and the industry is rapidly shifting to keep up with the demand for a cleaner, healthier, and safer world.”

Julie says, “There are a myriad of reasons to look into the advantages of multigenerational living, which has been accepted in many parts of the world for generations; and once had been much more common in our history.

The COVID-19 pandemic brings renewed focus on thoughts of with who we would want to quarantine with in times of crisis. For many of us, that would be our families. This pandemic also created a large segment of young college graduates, unable to begin their adult work lives, needing to move back into the family nest to regroup  and make a new plan of action for their lives.”

 
What will the future look like?

“I think (there are) changes in what the typical American family looks like,” said Sarita Gupta, co-director of the nonprofit organization Caring Across Generations.

Says Julie, “As families begin to adjust to these new changes, the American home will change as well. I see a future in which homes will have both communal and separate quarters for the different generations. These will offer advantages to every age group, not just the oldest and youngest members. The current stress levels of the "sandwich generation", or those who have both aging parents and young children in the home, will certainly impact homes in the future. Knowing someone is there to help monitor persons with needs, as well as supervising children participating in virtual education and after-school activities, is both cost effective and allows for much greater peace of mind, as well as many other advantages for both the oldest and the youngest.”

Dani adds, “Individualism reigns supreme in America and in this brave new world we are taking cues and ideas from our rich immigrant fabric and are drawing on our collective power to support each other through all stages in life. Movies like, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” showed us the humor and love that multigenerational households and broader communities could look like. Let’s imagine and seek to create an equitable and inclusive built environment where equality is reality and intentional. 

 
How is the industry preparing to meet these needs?

“The building industry can take advantage in both retrofit and new build arenas,” says Julie. “Homes can be successfully improved for safety and health in the same process of the normal renovations in many American homes. In the kitchen and bathroom, many of those adjustments recommended for our elderly family members are also just smart design changes to accommodate our shortest population - our children, or individuals who choose to sit while performing tasks. No-threshold showers in the bath are just smart and attractive. Designs such as lever door handles (with angled end returns to keep a hand from slipping off the level) are becoming the norm. Educated designers are learning that touchless and voice activated faucets, higher wall placement of electrical outlets, along with lower controls for switches and thermostats, non-slip flooring materials, and effective use of color and light contrast all benefit everyone in the home. The takeaway here is, good design incorporates Living In Place, and Living In Place is simply good design!"
Dani told me that for her to prepare properly, she talked with other professionals in her design and real estate networks and chose education as the best method to understand and meet her clients’ needs now and for the future. “Changing my attention to making every home accommodating for all ages and needs, was the big game changer for me. I can now focus on what I do best, and when a client has specific needs, I include a medical expert on the team to help create the best solutions.”

 
Education is key to moving forward

We at the Living In Place Institute were not prophetic in creating education that addresses many of these issues on a scale broader than ever before. A some of you know, we started the Institute in 2013 just wanting to help older adults stay in their homes. We quickly realized, as many of us have, that “just” is never enough, and focusing on the needs of “just” specific age populations is inadequate. The Living In Place “all-homes” concept, with the continuing advice and counsel of many industry experts, including Julie and Dani, rapidly grew into an industry-wide series of education programs. These professional in-depth programs are now guiding the discussions and providing practical and innovative solutions to make all homes safe – health – comfortable, for all needs and ages. Join this rapidly growing, international movement of focusing our everyday business efforts into a collective effort of helping each other as we help our clients, one home at a time. 


 
Thank you for taking your time to learn how to make a difference in homes today and impacting our communities forever.
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Learn more about Living In Place Institute events, programs, and certification and credentialing classes. Click HERE to join Dani, Julie, and countless others who are changing how we design and the products we recommend. Discover how, through our individual business endeavors, we collectively improve lives, one home at a time.

 
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 Julie Schuster, Julie Schuster Design Studio
Certified Living in Place Professional (CLIPP) & Living In Place Institute Ambassador, NKBA - IDS – IFSG, Red Ribbon Professional - International Feng Shui Guild, KBDN Top Innovators Award Winning Designer
Julie is focused is on creating spaces that nurture and support the people who live in them. Her specialty is uniting both the physical as well as the emotional well-being of every environment. Her holistic style does this collaboratively with each client by taking the time to "coax" out the desires and vision that each of us has for the spaces where we all want to live. The results are invigorating interior spaces for people to live comfortable and function well. Julie is a sought-after national speaker on Living In Place, Interior Design and Feng Shui with the Interior Design Society (IDS), the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) and many others.


Daniela I. (Dani) Polidor, Empire Realty Group & Design for a Difference
Certified Living in Place Professional (CLIPP) & Living In Place Institute Ambassador, Realtor – SRES, Interior Designer – CLIPP, ASID, BD, CKD, CBD, CAPS  
Dani is a multi-talented designer and licensed realtor, and the foremost authority on Living In Place designs in the Greater Rochester and the Finger Lakes area of New York State. She presents seminars to contractors, builders, other professionals, and homeowners about how to design space so it can be used by anyone, regardless of age, size, or ability. She is a well-known speaker at industry events, and an invaluable resource for those seeking information about adapting spaces to meet the needs of all ages. Dani, a full-service professional who specializes in kitchen and bath design, clearly practices what she preaches.

 
 

 













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