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Voice of Experience

Voice of Experience: August 2023 | Where to Live

Living Multigenerational in the 21st Century

Seth D Kramer


  • One retirement option is to merge households with family members, in this case, your in-laws.
  • Living in a multigeneratinal household can provide unique opportunities to learn from and enjoy the company of your family in your daily life.
Living Multigenerational in the 21st Century
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I live in a multigenerational home. As per, this is defined as a household that includes “two or more adult generations.” My wife and I live with her mother and father. Currently, according to the US Census bureau there are “6.0 million U.S. multigenerational households,” as of the 2020 census. And this number is an increase from the 5.1 million in 2010.

The house we live in was acquired by my wife’s paternal grandparents in 1961. When she was a child, my wife’s family moved around a lot. Throughout this time, her grandparents’ house was a constant. My wife always considered it “home.” Over the years, many life events have occurred there; in fact, we got married in the backyard.

It had always been our plan to ultimately retire there. However, due to a health event that I had, I retired sooner than we had planned. As such, in 2018 we moved in with her parents, into the house that had been her grandparents’ home.

My wife’s parents were delighted by us moving in. They had always wanted us to move in, and as such they had already designated the master bedroom and bathroom as "ours.” The house is in a coastal community in Southern California, and it was close enough for us to spend almost every weekend there (prior to my health event).

There are a lot of benefits to living with my in-laws. My mother-in-law is a retired kindergarten teacher, so she is very positive and encouraging in all my interactions with her. For example, when I do even the smallest favor for her, she tells me that I have earned a (metaphoric) gold star. This always makes me smile. It was nice to hear when you were 5 and it is still nice to hear it in your mid-60s.

My wife’s family has always been very close. Her parents actually met in kindergarten. They are both the same age. They married a year after high school.

My in-laws are 20 years older than my wife. My wife has one sibling, a brother four years her junior. As my in-laws often say, my wife is their favorite daughter, and her younger brother their favorite son.

Since the start of the pandemic, their favorite daughter has worked remotely. This allows my wife to work from home, so not only does she get to see her parents daily; it is often that she sees them several times a day.

My father-in-law is a retired professor whose specialty was English as a second language. He suffers from multiple health issues and his primary caretaker is my mother-in-law.

As a result, my wife and I have taken over certain household chores. For example, we get a weekly meal service that provides already-made dinners (i.e., entrees, vegetables, and rice) that just need to be reheated. In selecting the menus for the week, the biggest challenge I have is finding items that are robust enough for my wife and yet acceptable to 80-year-old palates. But I must be doing it right because I keep getting gold stars.

Most nights, we eat dinner with my in-laws. While we eat, we listen to satellite radio. My father-in-law is responsible for selecting the music. Sometimes it is country music and my wife and her parents reminisce about living in the semi-rural Sacramento River Valley. Other times, it is music from the 1940s and my in-laws fondly remember their youth. And sometimes it is pop music from the 1970s—a familiar song from a one-hit wonder that none of us can remember. Since I am the only one not far-sighted in the group, I usually am the one who can read the artist’s name on the small-screen radio transmitter. And for that feat, I get another gold star.

Few of the items of furniture that I had in my house in West Los Angeles made the transition to my wife’s grandparents’ home. The items that were relocated are seamlessly incorporated into my in-laws’ house. Still, I occasionally will see a bureau and remember—oh, that used to be in my bedroom in the old house…or at least I think so.

One item of furniture that definitely made the move was my 45-inch HD flat-screen television. It is now in the living room and regularly used by my in-laws. I am a bit obsessive about streaming TV, and I subscribe to multiple services. In fact, I have streaming-service FOMO. And as a result of subscribing to as many services as I can find, I usually take the least expensive subscription, which often includes advertising. Interestingly, my octogenarian in-laws refuse to watch any paid streaming service that shows ads. After a lifetime of watching television with commercials, they have had enough of them.

My mother-in-law is surprisingly tech savvy for someone in her mid-80s. She has no problem with group texting or doing Zoom meetings. She is very comfortable interacting with “Alexa” and “Siri.” However, when the electronics flummox her, she will ask me for help. And usually the problems are so esoteric, I have to secretly call my thirty-something son—who invariably has the answer. I then pass the information on to my mother-in-law and—you guessed it—I get another gold star.