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Is intergenerational living a solution for affordable care?

Posted on 23/09/2015

With an ever-growing ageing population and the need for sustainable and affordable care, we’re all looking for new ways to ensure that elderly people get the help that they need without having to find large sums of money to fund residential care services.

One option is through intergenerational living. A bit of a mouthful to say, this simply means having different generations living under one roof to the benefit of all parties. At its simplest, this is reverting back to a popular past option of moving elderly parents in to live with their children and families.

If you are worried about elderly parents, then this is a way to provide any help and support that they need without crippling care home fees. However, it can be difficult if you also have to juggle work and a young family (see our guide to being a family carer), but some intergenerational households are finding ways to make it work by reaping benefits at both ends of the scale.

Childcare is also an expensive prospect, especially for families where both parents work. If grandparents are often called upon to help out for babysitting duties, but they also need a little more help around the house themselves, then moving them in can solve two problems at once. They can help with after-school childcare and have time to bond with their grandchildren, and in return they can get home-cooked meals, a clean home and help with daily tasks, for example.

It also solves a problem of loneliness, which is a real issue among many elderly people, especially those who find themselves alone after the death of a spouse. Having the company and the responsibility of looking after young grandchildren can help to give them purpose and comfort, which can also aid them to continue to live more independent and active lifestyles.

There are ways that you can make intergenerational living work for you. For example, ensure that everyone has their own private space – you don’t want to be living on top of each other. You also need to set out rules and expectations in advance – when do each of you need help with tasks? Setting out a schedule helps you to continue planning your own life around each other. You also need to be flexible. You might find that over time your elderly parent needs more help than you can manage alone, and you may consider having a paid carer to help with some tasks. You may also have to find alternative childcare solutions in some circumstances.

Intergenerational living isn’t just about the extended family, however, it can also refer to other solutions. For example, a pilot project run by Age UK Oxfordshire and Novus Homeshare (read more about it in this article) started this summer as a way to help two generations at once. It looked at solving the problem of a lack of affordable housing for younger people, and older people who felt lonely living in large houses alone. The solution was to match young people to live in the homes of older people. The younger person was to provide some companionship every week, as well as performing domestic chores, in return for a lower-cost place to live. There are other homeshare solutions available around the country, which you can read more about on the Shared Lives Plus website. 

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