With rents and mortgage payments on the rise, is multigenerational living the secret to thriving in tough economic times?

Luke Saliba and his wife Claire Gotch are staring at the possibility of getting a large mortgage to buy a home they can barely afford, so they decide to try something different.

Instead, the young couple moved in with Claire’s mother Sylvia and took out a much smaller mortgage to renovate her home.

“The idea of ​​separating the nuclear family in the suburbs [feels] Luke said.

“I feel like we’re challenging it, and in this small way, it’s almost going back to how things should be.”

Having a European background means that “there is no stigma associated with living with grandparents,” Luke says.(ABC News: Rhiannon Stevens)

The living arrangement allowed Sylvia to stay in her home which had become too expensive for her to undertake on her own.

“I can stay in a house that I absolutely love, in an area where I’ve made friends – that means I won’t have any problems,” she said.

Luke and Claire and their two children also benefited from sharing the house.

Claire said owning a small mortgage of about $350,000 and living in an area with good services meant they were more financially manageable with the higher cost of living.

“My daughter needs surgery for her rings, adenoids and tonsils,” she said.

“If we don’t live like this, that’s going to be a problem and we’ll have to choose between food, rent bills and the medical stuff the kids need.”

Three generations of women are sitting on a sofa reading a picture book to their youngest, who has a doll in her mouth.
Claire says living with her mother is a great option, but she admits that not everyone has a chance to tap into the generational wealth in this way.(ABC News: Rhiannon Stevens)

Having another adult in the house also meant that she and her husband could turn to her mother for advice.

“My mom is so different than I am, and that was really good because my kids get things that I wouldn’t be able to do with them. [and] I have ideas I didn’t have. ”

She said the living arrangement worked because they tried to communicate like housemates, not mother and daughter.

“This is a group home where we bond, and because we have similar backgrounds…maybe we can live together a little easier, but living with my daughter isn’t always easy, but it goes both ways, right?” Sylvia said.

Locke, who is the grandson of Spanish and Macedonian immigrants, said having a European background means there is no stigma attached to living with grandparents, and he appreciates having an older generation at home.

“If any of us had a bad day,” he said, “we don’t have to travel to go, connect and give support to the family. We got it at home.”

A man, his mother-in-law and a child are sitting on the back deck of their house in the sunshine.
Sylvia loves to participate in the daily life of her grandchildren.(ABC News: Rhiannon Stevens)

Growing multigenerational families

Edgar Liu, a senior researcher at the University of New South Wales’ City Futures Research Centre, said economic conditions are often the driving factor for people choosing to live in a multigenerational environment.

Dr Liu, who has done research on multigenerational living over several years and defined them as families with more than one generation of adults, said data from the UK and the US showed that the economic shock of the global financial crisis (GFC) increased the number of multigenerational people. . – Families of generations in those countries.

Headshot of a man smiling for the camera and wearing glasses.
Edgar Liu says multigenerational families are on the rise.(Provided by the University of New South Wales)

“From the United States, in particular, there is evidence of this [showed] The natural growth rate was about 1.5 percent for this type of household.”

“[That] It doubled to about 3 percent with the advent of the global financial market, and then continued for two years before falling back to the normal 1.5 percent.”

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has provided new data to ABC on households with three generations.

It showed a slight increase in three generational living arrangements over recent years, from 275,000 in 2016 to 335,000 in 2021.

But Dr Liu said the biggest growth in Australia occurred in families where two generations of adults lived together.

While funding, especially the cost of care for both the young and the elderly, has affected people’s decisions to form multigenerational families, Dr. Liu said family contact is the most often cited benefit once people go through such living arrangements.

But he said this way of living in Australia is still stigmatized.

“Admission was very conditional, you had to have a reason to do it, you can’t just do it,” he said.

“[For example] Your mother was in a wheelchair, which is why she had to live with you, said Dr. Liu, “It was seen as an acceptable reason, but if someone enjoyed living with their mother, it would raise questions.

A father, his two children and his parents sitting around a coffee table playing cards.  There is a plate of snacks on the table.
The favorite family activity in Irina’s house is cards.(ABC News: Rhiannon Stevens )

Solving Solitude

Irina Kawar has always lived surrounded by generations of the family, and would not want it any other way.

Irina believes that “joint family”, as it is called in India, can solve much of the isolation and loneliness that Australia experiences today.

“This is a very good solution for people who feel isolated because isolation is just as big a problem in aging as teens are,” she said.

“It’s a win-win for everyone, isolated teens, isolated grandparents – together, they’re happy.”

For Irina, living with her in-laws, husband and two daughters also has financial and emotional meaning.

Stepdaughter and wife drinking tea at a table.
Irina says that living with anyone – a child, partner or parent – involves sacrifices, but the benefits outweigh the challenges.(ABC News: Rhiannon Stevens)

She said that she never felt lonely or discouraged when she learned to become a mother when her children were young because she always had a family around to support her.

She said that having the grandparents at home, as immigrants in Australia, helped her children maintain their connection to the Indian culture and language.

“[The grandparents] Follow daily religious practices, so you don’t have to go the extra mile to make it happen [the girls’] life, they can grow up around these practices as naturally as my husband and I did.”

“If it was just the two of us raising our daughters, we would need to make a conscious effort to talk to them in Hindi but live with the grandparents – they learn Hindi naturally.”

For those who have never tried to live outside the nuclear family unit, Irina realizes that there may be fear.

But, she said, sacrifices were made with anyone she lives with, whether it’s a partner, a child, parents or an extended family.

“All it takes is a small sacrifice, but the benefits are big.”

An old woman and her daughter in their sixties sitting at an outdoor table, drinking cups of tea.
Nina Xarhakos moved in with her mother, Maria, and became her primary caregiver.(ABC News: Rhiannon Stevens)

Maria . care

Nina Zarhakos, decades since she last lived with her parents, moved in with her mother, Maria, in 2020.

At 92, Maria has problems with mobility and has become isolated after the death of her husband and several close friends, in addition to the closure of her Greek social club due to the Corona virus.

“I have worked in the community sector with older people who speak Greek, [so] I am fully aware of how common depression and anxiety are among older adults, Nina said.

She said she respects her mother’s wish to stay home as long as possible.

“It gives me great pleasure to be able to make this kind of contribution to improving her quality of life and I believe it strengthens our relationship as well.”

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