Multigenerational households – the not-so-new way of living

Earlier this month we published a new Aviva report: ‘How We Live’. It’s a study of a moment in time – a snapshot of the lives of 4,000 adults across the UK in the summer of 2020.

Gareth Hemming, MD, Personal Lines, Aviva
Gareth Hemming, MD, Personal Lines, Aviva

Earlier this month we published a new Aviva report: ‘How We Live’ (PDF 5.6 MB).

It’s a study of a moment in time – a snapshot of the lives of 4,000 adults across the UK in the summer of 2020. We asked people about their homes, living arrangements, careers, transport plans and leisure activities.

The results were enlightening. How we are living in 2020 is quite different to previous years. There have been downsides and sad losses.

But 2020 has also brought other unexpected but positive changes, some of which may alter the way we live in the future.

Take living arrangements. Our study found during lockdown some young people moved in with their parents, and in other homes, older relatives joined support bubbles with their families. For these households, things have been a bit different this year.

Our report also discovered – perhaps more surprisingly – that this type of arrangement is already the norm in millions of UK homes.

And this type of set-up could be set to grow further still. Our data suggests that the number of older people living in multi-generational households has increased over the past four years and one in 14 UK households is planning to develop a ‘granny flat’ or annexe to provide further accommodation.

We’ve spoken to two adult ‘children’ who live with their parents, to hear about their experiences and how they feel about this type of living arrangement:

Shamini is a project manager, based in London. Aged 27, She lives with her parents, younger sisters and grandma.

Image of Shamini
Shamini

Shamini says: “It’s interesting that multi-generational households appear to be growing in popularity – but they have always been a way of life to me.

“I’m 27 and I live at home with my parents, younger sisters and grandma. I’m of South Asian descent and many adults my age still live at home. In fact, all of my South Asian friends do actually! It is just the norm for all of the family to live together until a child gets married, especially for daughters.

I’m 27 and I live at home with my parents, younger sisters and grandma.

“My grandma has been living with us for a couple of years now due to health reasons and that too, is incredibly normal in South Asian families. Again, all of my extended family members have at least one grandparent living in homes of more than just parents and children. Care homes simply aren’t a consideration for older relatives.

“There are many advantages to this type of arrangement. It gives children the opportunity to save up for their own property – usually moving out after they are married - and practically it makes sense to have the family under one roof.

“There are occasional challenges when we maybe get on each other’s nerves and we want a bit of time and space to ourselves – but I’m sure these are things people face in every family home! Overall multi-generational living has been a really positive experience for me and the benefits absolutely outweigh any downsides.”

Kirsten is a coaching faculty coordinator based in Norwich. She is 23 and has left home twice previously, but ‘boomerang-ed’ back to live with her parents.

Image of Kirsten
Kirsten

Kirsten says: “I’ve just moved into a new home, but I’ve actually moved out twice in the past as part of being in a relationship – and then moved back into the loving arms of my mum and dad when it didn’t work out. Mainly because I didn’t want to be on my own at that time but in the long run to save money and be able to live my life a little more care-free whilst I’m still young. I’m lucky and I didn’t have any rules at home.

There were pros and cons to living with parents, but overall it was a really positive experience for me.

“There were pros and cons to living with parents, but overall it was a really positive experience for me. I didn’t pay any rent so I was able to save for a mortgage and own new cars. The financial freedom meant I never had to say ‘no’ to making memories with friends. I also benefitted from emotional and practical support. I could spend quality time with my parents and there was always food in the house – and I didn’t have to do housework or washing!

“On the flip-side, living with my parents meant that I did have less privacy and independence than some of my friends. I never truly felt that I had my own time or space, and at times I felt judged – there’s a view that people living with parents can’t look after themselves.

“But realistically, I have incredible parents and it was absolutely the right decision for me.”

Gareth Hemming adds:

It’s vital that we keep adapting - as communities, families and businesses - as the world continues to evolve.

Our research has shown that more people have moved to live with their families during 2020 – for a variety of reasons. In some cases this has altered their plans for the future and we could see more multi-generational set-ups in years to come.

As Shamini and Kirsten attest, there are many advantages of living in this way: practical, emotional and financial. And indeed, many families are already embracing the benefits.

The phrase ‘the new normal’ has been overused in recent months. But what we see here is that there are lots of different ‘normals’ and many have been around for some time. It’s vital that we keep adapting - as communities, families and businesses - as the world continues to evolve.

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