Nancy Nall Reporting

In some cultures it’s common to find extended families living under the same roof; the very idea of assisted-living communities and old-age homes is unheard-of. In others, like ours, the situation is far less common. Far-flung families, busy schedules and a wealthier society make such living arrangements harder to find.

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But not that hard. The skyrocketing cost of elder care, longer lives, a shifting ethnic makeup in the population — these are some of the factors driving parents, their children and grandchildren under the same roof again.

How to make it work? As in most things, it takes a plan.

Most sources agree that open and honest communication, boundary-setting and mutual respect are essential in making these new households run smoothly. The transition is often not a happy one for all — it’s an acknowledgment of dependency — but it can lead to happier lives in the long run. A few tips:

• Talk it out. Make sure everyone knows what will be happening. Discuss all the issues that will play a part in the move — personal space, finances, extra chores. If you don’t settle things now, they’ll unsettle you in the future.

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• Establish house rules. If you’re lucky enough to have a semi-private “in-law suite” to use, you might want to set a schedule for certain activities — dinner together on some nights, apart on others. If a family already has its routines established — and most do — a new party will disrupt them at first. Acknowledge this up front.

• Everyone needs privacy; make sure everyone gets it. Younger family members aren’t home health-care aides, and have a right to “down time,” “me time” and other relief.

• Everyone should do their part. Older adults who are able should chip in with the household chores, too. “Feeling useful” is an important part of everyone’s self-esteem.

More ideas and resources can be found here, here, and here.

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