In this article, Sonia, our Urban Blogger, shares with us her point of view on Multigenerational Home Sharing.
Multigenerational Home Sharing: Contradictory trends
Multigenerational home-sharing is on the rise in the world. In 1980, only 12% of Americans shared a living space with people of more than two generations. This number has risen to 20%, according to Pew Research Center. The most obvious explanation for this may be the economic implications of living independently. Between 1980 and 2016, house prices in the United States rose by 18.4% in real terms, with certain hubs, such as San Francisco, rising as much as 162%.
Multigenerational Home Sharing in the world
Yet, the future of housing will look very different to what it looks like now. As developed countries host ever-more businesses that strive to tackle major issues, such as the housing crisis and an aging population, we will undoubtedly see a surge in applications that facilitate the co-sharing of work spaces as well as home-sharing that allows for inhabitants of all ages to mix.
Unfortunately, there is often a deep shame attached to living in an intergenerational space, constituting a cultural factor that is quite embedded in American culture. One may feel a lack of financial success that comes with dependency on their elders, whereas others may feel humiliated by a deemed lack of freedom associated with home-sharing with an older adult.
What social benefits can we expect?
A Boston-based app does exactly this. This competition-winning app allows for graduate students to find cheap rent in exchange for performing everyday household chores. This scenario perfectly highlights the mutually beneficial situation created through intergenerational home-sharing: daily tasks that a young person may find simple may be exhausting for their elderly counterpart.
It is not only in the United States where multigenerational housing is on the rise. Since 2006, multigenerational houses in Germany have been receiving funding through schemes that offer a conceptual ‘learning from one another’ approach. The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs and Senior Citizens and Youth relaunched a subsidiary programme in 2017 with the objective of promoting intergenerational work, volunteering and an active community. It is implemented in the form of a co-financing model with EU, national and local funding.
Similarly, in the Netherlands, NGO Stichting Timon and housing foundation Hibion developed urban housing for young mothers and seniors in 2012. Of the 17 housing units constructed by the foundation and rented to the NGO, 13 apartments were intended for young mothers and adolescent girls whilst the rest went to ‘coaches’ selected amongst the elderly to help the young residents. The intention of this intergenerational project was to create an ‘assisted living environment’ for young females who were no longer able to live with their family or who needed assistance when living independently.
It is unsurprising that such initiatives are emerging thanks to the extraordinary potential social benefits that intergenerational home-sharing has. According to a report by the ARRP Foundation, one in three people aged over forty-five are lonely. Although this statistic has remained consistent since 2010, an increase in the aging population will culminate in millions more elderly people feeling isolated. If we become more open to the idea of living harmoniously with various generations, it could have significant impact on the quality of life for those who struggle to live alone.
New Stanford research shows that relationships spanning across generations are important in society and that older adults provide mentoring and attention that is necessary to a young person’s development. Stanford psychology professor Laura Carstensen said, “Contrary to widespread beliefs that older populations consume resources that would otherwise go to youth, there is growing reason to think that older people may be just the resource children need”.
Carstensen calls for more “intergenerational engagement”, but this can only be fulfilled once society changes how it views interactions and relationships between the young and the old.
The limitations of the model
However, there are limits to intergenerational housing. Whilst the concept is welcomed in many countries globally, others, such as the United Kingdom, are slow to follow suit. Katie Bradford, a British student studying in London, explained in an interview that one of her biggest motivations to enter higher education was to have the freedom of living independently. She said, “In the U.K., we do not have a culture whereby young people choose to live with elderly people. We want to discover our adult life with people our age and learn through our own actions rather than being taught by older adults in a home-sharing context”.
Sonia Yazidi studies at the University of London Institute in Paris. Writing is a passion of hers and she is a sustainable development enthusiast!
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