In a tough housing market, more and more young people are opting to stay living at home for longer.
But there is another growing trend — baby boomers moving back in with their adult kids. And it is by choice.
Research suggests about one in five Australians live in a multi-generational household — and that number is on the rise.
Dr Edgar Liu from the University of New South Wales is one of a small number of Australian academics who has done research into multi-generational living.
He said it was a common way of life in many parts of the world, and agreed it appeared to be increasing in Australia.
“Across Australia about one in five people live in a multi-generational household,” Dr Liu said.
“The fastest-growing age group for multi-generational household members are over 65s, partly because there aren’t that many that lived in this kind of arrangement back in the 1980s.
“But we are generally seeing a greater change in terms of the number of older people living in this kind of arrangement.”
Changing perception of ‘normal family’
Dr Liu said much of that increase was driven by a desire for baby boomers to stay living at home, rather than move into residential aged care.
“In the survey that we did, more than half of the people said that finance was one of the reasons why they did it and there are many different subcategories in that,” he said.
“Certainly for a lot of our participants, they said, ‘Well I can’t bear the thought of sending my mother to a home. I would much rather have them live with me. I can take care of them much better than any professional can’.”
He said changing attitudes about what a “normal” family looked like were prompting many people to explore different living options.
“How families actually work has changed quite significantly in the last 20 or 30 years,” Dr Liu said.
“There are a lot more blended families now. There are a lot more break-ups than we’ve seen before and that has a lot of different implications.
“Quite a few of our participants actually end up in this arrangement because of a divorce, whether it is in their 30s or 40s or in their later life. That certainly was one of the many drivers.”
But Dr Liu said multi-generational living came with plenty of challenges, and was certainly not suited to every family.
“One of the things people like most about living in this arrangement is the companionship. But, of course, when there are so many of you living in the same house, you are bound to rub each other up the wrong way every now and then.”