Generation Skipping: What’s Old is New!

I’ve spent a lot of column inches in recent weeks discussing the many options available to Baby Boomers to enable aging in place. But there’s another solution that’s close to many seniors’ hearts — sharing your home with a grandchild. Think “grand-mates,” or adult grandchildren moving in with grandparents. It’s an arrangement worth checking out.

Nothing new here: many households consist of grandparents raising grandchildren without a parent being present — a skipped generation household. All too frequently, the cause is a tragic situation such as addiction, incarceration or a worse circumstance. Retirement and the “golden years” become consumed with the demands of child rearing. It is often a matter of survival that has child living with grandparent. 

Hanging Out With Granny

But what happens when it’s consenting adults that give this home-sharing idea a try? Turns out that these modern “skipped generation” households are a rising trend. Young adult grandchildren — who are in school or in lower-paying, entry-level jobs — are among the main candidates for grand-mates. In June of this year, the personal finance company Credit Karma conducted a survey that found that 29 percent of young adults in the United States live at home with their parents or other relatives. Reasons cited included the high cost of rent and other housing expenses, returning to school, and low-paying jobs.

Young adult grandchildren find that not only will the cost of living with grandparents be lower; they also will have the perks of being in a loving home with an adult or adults they feel comfortable with who are not their parents.

More Conveniences and Less Judgement

Everyone was once a child, and many have been parents. Experience has taught that many parents just can’t resist parenting, regardless of the age of their children. But the grandchild-grandparent relationship often is different: Grandparents are familiar and loving, but without the overarching need to “parent.” This fits well with many young adults’ need to be independent, but with a loving foundation.

For Baby Boomers, a grand-mate can assuage feelings of isolation and loneliness. An adult grandchild also can provide assistance in running errands, helping out with housekeeping tasks, and demystifying modern technology like online bill paying and using the TV remote. Inviting a grandchild in need of an affordable place to live into their home allows seniors to continue aging in place, even after they might need occasional help doing so.

A recent article in The New York Times describes several “grand-mate” living arrangements, and the positives for both generations. The article includes an example of “serial residency,” where the third of four grandchildren was taking his turn occupying the guest room at Grandma’s, which was close to his new job. This family “tradition” enabled the grandmother to age in place almost to the end of her life.

The good news from the article is that disagreements seemed to be non-existent in all of the examples, which one grandfather attributed to the conversations being between adults — “grown-up to grown-up.”  Additionally, there was the good sense approach by one grandmother to accommodate the different housekeeping style of her granddaughter … ”I just keep that bedroom door closed.”  With age comes such wisdom!

A Twist on Traditional Grand-Mates

Baby Boomers would be well served to consider outside-the-box grand-mate arrangements — maybe weekly meals, museum visits, or even regular travel. A recent PBS News Weekend story from Geoff Bennett told the story of Joy Ryan, 92, and her grandson, Brad. In 2015, Brad discovered his grandmother had never seen a mountain. So he took her on a camping trip that included mountain climbing, camping in a tent, and a lot of Ramen noodles.

Both Grandma Joy and Brad learned a lot from the trip, they told Bennett, and Ryan decided that he needed to make sure his grandmother’s remaining years were filled with “as many memories as we could pack in.” So the two embarked on “Grandma Joy’s Road Trip” — a series of trips to all 63 U.S. National Parks, from Alaska to the Deep South. To date, the duo has visited 62 of the parks, and an upcoming trip to American Samoa will finish the circuit.

Sharing a home — or an adventure — with a much-loved grandchild can be a perfect option for Baby Boomers who not only want to age in place, but want to explore and take charge of their own Third Chapter Living. As Grandma Joy told Bennett, “I’ve lived …. 67 years in the same house … you can just hardly imagine all the beautiful, wonderful things you find outside. It’s been miraculous. … And it gave me something — when I get older — I can sit and talk about!”

A Third Chapter Living goal, if I ever heard one!

Third Chapter Living celebrates, challenges, informs and promotes conversations about housing issues affecting the Baby Boomer Generation. Check out our website to learn more about our work. Our Facebook Group is a resource center with tips and recommendations on navigating those issues. Share experiences with others who are looking for Housing Downsizing Tools that allow them to successfully age-in-place.

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