Preparing for multigenerational living: Elderly relatives

Preparing for multigenerational living: Elderly relatives

Britain is seeing a sharp rise in the number of multigenerational homes. Based on the rate of growth seen in the past 10 years, there could be a staggering 2.2 million people living in multi-family households by 20251.

Our recent report2 revealed that almost one in 10 multigenerational households are those with parents or elderly relatives who have moved in. So why is this?

The current costs of carers and care homes are staggering, with residential care costing on average between £29,250 and £39,300 a year3. As a result, families are turning to alternative living arrangements as a way to take care of their elderly relatives. This is allowing them to not only reduce costs, but also spend more time with their loved ones.

Our report found:
Elderly relatives

Despite the clear advantages of having an elderly relative living with you, naturally there may also be a range of challenges when adapting to life with another family member in your home. Therefore, we got in touch with Jan Cisek (FSSA, MSc), a Feng Shui Consultant and Environmental Psychologist. He helped us put together a range of top tips, so that your elderly relatives settle into their new home as quickly as possible, and to help ensure that they are safe, comfortable and happy.

Top tips

Safety first

According to Cisek, “when an elderly person feels safe and at home they will settle in easily.” So making sure there’s “safety measures and easy access to difficult parts of the house if they have physical disabilities should be your top priorities.” Installing rails in the house or a chairlift will help support them getting around, and adding slip resistant flooring or mats, to help prevent falls, might be a good starting point. Purchasing a personal emergency response system (PERS) will mean that they can quickly call for help if they need to – giving you both peace of mind. “Feeling safe is the key to settling in,” so making appropriate changes according to their specific needs will add a huge sense of security in their new home.

Feeling familiar

“We love familiar surroundings,” Cisek tells us, so recreating certain aspects of their previous home will not only show that you care, but will also help them to feel settled. “When an elderly relative is re-housed they need to bring as many things from their previous home as possible or practical. This will help them to create some of their previous sense of a home.” It’s important to personalise their own spaces with their favourite things, as well as putting up lots of photos around the house of family and friends. This can really enhance their mood as “happy memories make happy people!”

Space of their own

Cisek explains that “having their own space, room or place to sit and relax, and also having their own routine and freedom to move is essential.” If you’re able to, give them as much of their own personal space as possible in the house, so they have a private place to spend time. This will also help to make sure all the family members aren’t getting under each other’s feet, which could create feelings of overcrowding and potentially lead to conflicts.

Sense of belonging

“A sense of belonging is critical for feeling at ease and being able to contribute,” explains Cisek. “Elderly people are powerhouses of wisdom and experience, which shouldn’t be underestimated. In many traditional societies, elders are respected and have a huge influence.” Therefore, encourage the family to ask for their advice and opinion to help them feel valued. Why not suggest they help look after their grandchildren, or give them small chores around the house, so they keep busy and have a role in their new home.

Happy families

A mixture of generations under one roof can be challenging, as “people are different and have different values.” Older generations may find it difficult understanding the social and cultural changes of the world which younger generations now operate in. Therefore, Cisek recommends that “finding common ground, such as mutual causes or interests will allow for new shared experiences and better relationships.” It’s also important to remember that “elderly people may have their own set patterns, so being flexible, understanding and accommodating is essential for avoiding any potential problems.”

Read our advice about preparing your house if you have grown up children still living at home, or coming back to live with you. 
Aviva Multi Generational Living

2Research carried out by Censuswide research on behalf of Aviva in March 2016, using a random sample of 2,000 adults from across the UK.
3Laing & Buisson Care of Older People UK Market Report 2014/15:

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