By Bev Bachel
As you head into retirement, one of the biggest decisions you’ll have to make is where you are going to live. Many opt for retirement communities but increasingly people are choosing to live with younger members of their own families.
According to Marc Freedman, founder of Encore.org and author of How to Live Forever: The Enduring Power of Connecting the Generations, that choice could be the secret to fulfillment and happiness as we live longer lives.
But intergenerational living doesn’t just benefit those in retirement; it benefits family members of all ages. That’s why Robert and Kay Joslin are so delighted to be reunited under one roof with their daughter Jamie and her young family.
Together for the good of all
For the Joslins, intergenerational living is nothing new. They’d done it years ago with the generation before them.
“Kay’s dad had polio in the 1950s and was in a wheelchair most of his adult life,” explains Robert. “When Kay’s mom had a stroke, we all agreed it was time for the two of them to come to Texas and live with us and our daughter Jamie, who was 10 at the time.”
So, Robert and Kay designed and built a home where all three generations could live together. Kay, who had already left her career as a petroleum engineer, was the primary caregiver for her parents and Jamie, while Robert continued to work full-time.
“That experience was invaluable,” says Robert. “It taught us all the value of different perspectives and about the importance of respect and understanding.”
But eventually Kay’s parents died, Jamie moved to Minneapolis to attend college, and Robert and Kay became empty nesters.
Fast forward 10 years. By then, Jamie was married to Randy Millard and living in Minneapolis. When the couple announced their pregnancy in 2014, Robert and Kay decided it was time to join them. In less than 10 weeks, they sold their Texas home and bought a new one just a mile away from Jamie and Randy.
Shortly after, Kay once again became the primary caregiver, this time for her granddaughter Robin, while Robert, Jamie and Randy worked full-time. And while they hadn’t had any serious conversations about when they would merge households, all four were certain it would happen … someday.
That day came sooner than expected when Jamie, at 31, was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis the same month she learned she was pregnant with her second child.
“We always knew our two families would live together, but after Dani’s birth there were days when I couldn’t even change a diaper or button the girls’ clothes, so our ‘someday’ plan became a two-year plan.”
The four adults discussed what they wanted and needed in their new shared home. Jamie and Randy both needed offices, while Kay insisted on a walk-out basement, ideally with a kitchenette so that she and Robert, both early risers, could enjoy a cup of coffee without disturbing other family members.
Robert even created a spreadsheet to help each person prioritize what was most important to him or her.
A smart financial decision
One of their first, and most important, steps was meeting with a financial planner. “We knew our goal of living together would never work if we couldn’t talk candidly about money, including how much we make and how we hope to spend it,” says Robert, who still works full-time.
“We are also very clear that it’s not the Joslin’s money or the Millard’s money, but our money.”
That’s one reason why, when they purchased their new home, all four adults put their names on the home’s title. It’s also why they continue to talk openly about what aging well means to them, as well as their goals, including financial independence.
“Buying a house together was definitely a smart financial decision,” says Jamie. “Daycare for two kids costs $24,000 to $30,000 a year. And if my mom and dad had to move into an assisted living facility, that would cost another $5,000 a month—for each of them.”
Family time is priceless
While the financial benefits of living together are huge, it’s the ordinary, everyday moments that everyone appreciates the most.
“I got off a conference call the other day and walked out of my office to find my dad playing Monopoly with my daughter Robin, while Dani sat in her highchair watching,” says Jamie. “I could have cried! They were playing with the exact same set my grandparents and I used to play with when I was a kid. Seeing that brought back a flood of memories and made me realize just how blessed my family truly is.”
Of course, there are challenges. “Yeah, we fight,” says Jamie. “Yeah, there’s tension. But the positives definitely outweigh the negatives. For instance, the girls are learning that there’s not just one way of doing things but multiple ways.”
Robert agrees: “Things were great before we moved in together, and they’re even better now that we’re once again a three-generation household raising a family, cooking and gardening together, sharing childcare, pooling our resources and making memories that will last a lifetime.”
Bev Bachel is a freelance writer and the author of What Do You Really Want? How to Set a Goal and Go for It! A Guide for Teens. As a child, she enjoyed having her grandmother live with her family most winters.