In the 1940s it was a regular sight to see grandma or grandpa living with the family; grandma would help cook and babysit or grandpa would do work around the house. More than half a century later, this type of household is on the rise once more. The multigenerational households of today look different though – it is not only grandma or grandpa moving in, but also adult children returning back home or never leaving in the first place.

Multigenerational households are on the rise for many reasons. For some it is out of necessity, maybe a family member is unable to afford living alone, or grandma/grandpa needs to move in for health reasons. For many, though, these types of households are less a necessity, and more a conscious choice:

A Few Statistics:

  • The highest number of Canadian multigenerational households are in Ontario, this is due to a combination of economic realities including increased housing costs and cultural norms as well as different ethnocultural compositions.
  • There are currently over 400,000 multigenerational households in Canada (those housing three or more generations), with about 50 per cent of them in Ontario.
  • There has been a 37.5 per cent increase in these types of households since 2001.
  • The boomerang effect (adult children returning home after living on their own), has increased dramatically. 34.7 per cent of young adults between the ages of 20 and 34 are living with at least one parent, this is up from 30.6 per cent in 2001. It was previously assumed that these young adults would move back out after landing on their feet, but the latest data shows that many continue to live with their parents even after forming unions or having children of their own.
  • First and secondgeneration immigrants (compared to those whose parents were born in Canada) are more likely to live in multigenerational households.

The Pros and Cons of Multigenerational Households

  • ProsSaving money, sharing resources and household tasks, childcare and support.
  • Saving money seems to be the biggest catalyst for family members moving in together. Sharing a space means that costs can be divided and significantly cut.
  • Having a parent or relative at home means that you may have built-in childcare or help with other household tasks.
  • Money is saved on groceries, bills and energy is saved when dividing household tasks.
  • Living with family members can help to form strong family bonds, and being able to care for family members under one roof can be helpful.
  • One study found that teens living with a single mother and at least one grandparent in the home performed better in school than a teen living with two parents and no grandparent. There is emotional support; an Oxford study found that teens with a high level of involvement with their grandparents had fewer emotional and behavioural problems.
  • Cons Sacrificing privacy, having to compromise on certain things, needing to consult others when making decisions.
  • The more people living in your household – the more opinions, preferences, needs and desires need to be taken into consideration. Compromise is the name of the game.
  • Without proper communication, living with others can cause a strain on relationships and possibly cause issues.
  • Depending on the layout of the house, some degree of privacy will most likely be sacrificed.

New Developments have Multigenerational Households in Mind

Some American builders are creating homes with multigenerational families in mind. Large houses are being built with private apartments, separate entrances and separate garages. The unique thing that sets these homes apart from say, an income property, is that there is an interior door linking the two units together. The layout of these homes ensures privacy when it is needed, and a communal living space when it is wanted. These types of homes offer privacy and convenience. With multigenerational homes on the rise, it would not be surprising to find Canadian builders following suit.

Things to Consider when Planning for a Multigenerational Household

Whether it is due to necessity or convenience, making the change to a multigenerational household can have its challenges. The key is to have the conversation early and plan ahead instead of reacting to a time of crisis. Take the time to set boundaries, figure out budgets and have honest conversations about expectations. With proper planning and communication, it can be an amazing change that benefits everyone involved.