Living MultiGenerational in the Pacific Northwest


One of the biggest trends in housing, and a big buzzword, has been MultiGenerational Living. Often it’s described as this new thing that’s a necessity due to the cost of Elder Housing, or Millenials not being able to get jobs and out of the basement. My background is in American history (BA from Southern Oregon University) and one thing I know for sure: this is the way most people lived all around the world until post WWII.

It’s often the best way to have childcare before or after school, when kids are little and only a do a half day or 3x a week daycare, or sick days. It’s also great to have grandparents be a daily presence in grandkids lives. In my own childhood, I had one set of grandparents in town, and even before they retired when I was about 9, I saw them two or three times a week, and more in the summer. They picked me up from school when I got sick, or took me to the dentist in the middle of the morning. If they are in the same house, or one the same property, kids can see them every day! My mom, and sometimes my dad, stay with us 2 nights a week to help out with childcare. This picture is from Valentine’s Day, my dad made oatmeal hearts for breakfast, then took the girls to school. You don’t get Papa’s oatmeal hearts on a Thursday if you don’t live together!

Other the other side, with aging parents, there’s no better way to keep active, agile, and engaged than to be living with younger people! We adult children can also keep an eye on the older folks. It’s much easier to do after surgery or illness care if you are already in the same house. Here are some of my tips for successfully beginning multigenerational shared housing!

  1. Set Expectations: Have open and honest discussions about who will do what, and when. Who is picking up and dropping off kids? Are meals shared? All meals? Once a week? How about cleaning and yard work?

  2. Finances: Honesty, again, is always the best policy. Are bills shared? Is any rent/mortgage being paid? How about food? Extras like take out dinner, Netflix? If more than bills and entertainment costs are being shared, I highly recommend making a contract and talking to an attorney. Will an adult sibling who is not having parents there have an issue if they are contributing to your mortgage and providing childcare? Will this affect will and estate planning?

  3. Boundaries: Are you an all together family? Do you need quiet space and time? How much and when? Parenting boundaries are also important. Your mom may have hated cursing, almost swears, and potty talk when you were a kid. Do you? If not, make the language allowed by kids (and adults if you have a cursing grandpa!) in the house and who will enforce it. Speaking of enforcing rules, does Grandma do time outs until 5:30, then mom and dad take over? How does it look now, how do you want it to change?

  4. Babysitting: If grandparents are helping with childcare, other than the regular times, is extra babysitting ok? How often? Are the grandparents getting time alone as well? An easy way to build up a resentment is to set up a pattern of last minute childcare. Date nights are important though!

  5. Use a professional: Set up a family counseling session before you move in together. Come with the agenda to go over #1-4. Family meetings monthly or quarterly to see if things are still going well and everyone is happy are also beneficial. Don’t hesitate to go back to a counselor if things are not working out.

If Multi-Generational Living is one of your goals, let’s talk about finding the right home to make it the easiest!