Slightly More Seniors Living With Family

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In the 19th and early 20th centuries, it was not unusual for older Americans to live with their adult children and grandchildren. But more seniors could afford to live on their own after passage of Social Security and then Medicare.

By the 1990s, fewer than 10 percent of people over age 65 lived with relatives, usually offspring.  This number has crept back up to around 12 percent in recent years, according to an analysis by the Center for Retirement Research.

Economic disadvantage is the common thread among older people living in these multigenerational households, a new study finds. This held true whether the seniors moved in with their adult children and grandchildren or the offspring moved into their parents’ homes.

“Experiencing economic distress increased the odds of a senior forming a multigenerational household,” concluded researchers from Arizona State University and George Mason University.

Here are their main findings, based on an analysis of U.S. Census data for more than 49,000 people who were 65 or older between 1996 and 2008:

  • Major life changes such as widowhood made seniors more likely to join a multigenerational home.
  • Older people whose retirement income or net worth drops over a one-year period often move in with family. The average income for seniors in multigenerational households was about $1,800 per month, compared with about $2,300 for seniors living on their own or with spouses.
  • For cultural as much as financial reasons, the researchers said, elderly Hispanics, African-Americans and Asians, particularly in urban areas, are much more likely to move in with their progeny than are whites. The analysis controlled for income.
  • Once seniors join multigenerational households, they tend to enroll in social welfare programs such as Medicaid and food stamps. This could be happening for a number of reasons, said Arizona State researcher Deirdre Pfeiffer, including the inability of a senior head of household to afford her living expenses after family members, who are struggling financially, move in and drain resources. In other cases, adult children might become aware of their parents’ financial problems when everyone is living under the same roof and encourage them to apply for aid.

Sharing living expenses with family members doesn’t always solve a senior’s financial problems, the study suggested, and can even have a “destabilizing effect on seniors’ economic conditions.”

The research reported herein was performed pursuant to a grant from the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) funded as part of the Retirement Research Consortium. The opinions and conclusions expressed are solely those of the author(s) and do not represent the opinions or policy of SSA or any agency of the federal government. Neither the United States Government nor any agency thereof, nor any of their employees, makes any warranty, express or implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of the contents of this report. Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise does not necessarily constitute or imply endorsement, recommendation or favoring by the United States Government or any agency thereof. 

Larry Littlefield

I don’t see this as a negative trend. People, including family members, are difficult to live with, but also difficult to live without. Those whose family members are far away and/or alienated are worse off, perhaps as result of their own prior decisions, perhaps not.

The real estate market is responding with more in-law set-ups with separate entrances, when the government permits. Loosening up exclusionary zoning for one-family only.

As people age, the availability of assistance for seniors who move in with family — because they are still counted separately for income eligibility purposes — is a good thing not to be taken for granted.

One of the things that inflates the cost of home health care is the everyone wants a caregiver at the start and end of the day, for getting up and getting to bed. If family members can take care of that, with a care provider checking in a mid-day when they are at work, that’s better for everyone.


Another benefit of multi-generational homes is that a senior is often perfectly able to care for themselves, and also be the in-house grandparent who’s at home to oversee children getting home from school, etc.

I have noticed this in my own neighborhood. I often see grandparents with a grandchild in tow, or meeting a grandchild getting off the school bus.

Gayle Dedelow

I, for one, would not want to live with my family as I am very independent. But I do feel the loneliness being alone. So if there are no disabilities, maybe it could be a good thing for the senior.

Nikah şekeri

It can be commented as a positive trend for many communities all around the world. The changing world conditions affect the living styles of many people and their families. Financial problems can lead to this situation. Thanks for your opinions.

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