Innovative Senior Housing Needed for Multigenerational Households

The growing senior population and the struggling economy have combined to spur the growth of multigenerational families in the United States, and innovative housing options are needed for these households, says a Generations United study.

In 2009, the Pew Research Center’s broad definition of multigenerational households found that 11.9 million of the 113.6 million U.S. households, or 10.5%, were either three-generational, “skipped generational” where grandparents and grandchildren make up a household, or the most prevalent type: parents and adult children older than 25 living together.

“This trend is not likely to be reversed, even if and when the United States eventually experiences a robust recovery,” says Generations United. “The reasons include the aging of the 78 million baby boomers and the increasing numbers of Hispanic and Asian households, both native-born and immigrant, whose cultural traditions often encompass caring for young and old in multigenerational settings.”


The Great Recession saw many older workers get laid off and unable to find a new job, forcing them to claim Social Security as soon as they were eligible. This lowers the amount they could have received had they waited until the age of eligibility for full benefits, and in turn, says Generations United, “many boomers may end up turning to their adult children for help—and a place to live in the near future.”

There are also those who are financially able to care for adult children or grandchildren, but struggle to do so as government programs and provisions for multigenerational households are limited.  A vast majority of respondents, at 82%, agreed that “there should be more government programs and policies that are supportive of multigenerational households like mine,” with 63% reporting that “Social Security plays vital role in financial stability of my multigenerational household.”

In many cases, low-income seniors who are caring for grandchildren, or who have adult children living with them, are not eligible to live in affordable senior housing communities, and there’s a general lack of housing options for multigenerational households, says Generations United.


What’s needed, the organization says, are more options to adapt homes or properties to accommodate multiple generations, and banks and mortgage lenders should be encouraged to adjust lending requirements for borrowers who fall into this category.

Additionally, local policies, codes and regulations, and unnecessary barriers to adapting homes should be evaluated, and a new demonstration for the Elder Cottage Housing Opportunities (ECHO) concept—a plan to supply small, low-cost, freestanding or temporarily semi-attached to a home manufactured units—should be launched to allow low-income families living in single-family homes more flexibility in adding additional space.

Generations United also recommends promoting affordable housing for “grandfamilies” by “demonstrating to private developers the benefits of providing such housing and by providing demonstration funds and incentives for states and local governments to stimulate such housing.”

Check out Generations United’s “Family Matters: Multigenerational Families in a Volatile Economy” here.

Written by Alyssa Gerace