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.
Yet maintaining separate households within the generations of a family became increasingly difficult during the Great Recession, which started in 2007. Many young people moved back home. What was more, the eldest generation needed support too. With people living longer and sometimes outrunning their retirement funds while needing long-term care, many homes had three generations living under one roof.
For some, responding to the needs that drive sharing a home among generations is difficult. For others being a “sandwiched” family is a lifestyle choice that has many advantages.
Here are five reasons why being in a multi-generational “sandwich” living arrangement can be desirable.
- 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 2011 Pew Research Center report showed that between 2007 and 2009, the increase of people living in multigenerational households was the largest in history. Multigenerational living situations are still trending, and sandwich households are not uncommon.
- Life in the same nest is feathery.
Generation gap? Rebellious youth unable to stomach 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 lovingfamily 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.
- 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.
- 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 arrangements 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.
- 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 “sandwiched” generations phenomenon that is sweeping the country. It might be quite a tasty proposition.
Share your stories about your sandwiched household!
Fry, Richard. “More Millennials Living with Family Despite Improved Job Market.” Pew Research Center, Social and Demographic Trends, July 29, 2015. Available online at
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/.
Kochar, Rakesh, and Cohn, D’Vera. “Fighting Poverty in a Bad Economy, Americans Move in with Relatives.” Pew Research Center, Social and Demographic Trends, October 3, 2011. Available online at: http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2011/10/03/fighting-poverty-in-a-bad-economy-americans-move-in-with-relatives/.
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