Communal family living has always been a contentious subject in modern times. In this day and age, the nuclear family lives separately from the extended family although these practices differ among communities. However, with changes in the global economic environment, younger family members are looking at moving back with elderly parents.
Similarly elderly family members have to opt to live with children and their families. It is not entirely about economics. Irrespective of the motives, the decision of whether to continue with communal family living or opt for it holds a number of pros and cons for both younger and older family members.
Communal family living is a personal choice. It holds distinct advantages for both seniors and younger family members. Apart from the economic benefit of living jointly and sharing expenses in a single household, there are also the mental and emotional facets that need to be considered.
As the elderly become less capable of taking care of themselves, the support offered by family members is a distinct advantage for a better quality of life. Similarly the elderly have much to offer beyond financial assistance. The wisdom, love and care of a senior within the house can be appreciated by both adults and children of the younger family.
The elderly are often keen on being active in some capacity or the other within the household and the younger family members will undoubtedly benefit from their contribution in this regard. It may be the odd period of baby sitting or child minding while the parents are away and the overseeing of the homestead in these days of two working parents within the home – the elderly can play an integral role in contributing to the children, household and lives of younger adults.
Apart from the support and assistance of younger family members, the elderly have the added benefit of being a daily part of the lives of their children and grandchildren as they grow older. At a time in life when the simplest of pleasures have the greatest meaning, spending the last years of one’s life surrounded by loved ones is all that many seniors could wish for.
As with any change in life, there may also be disadvantages for both older and younger family members to be living together. For some communal family living is a cultural or social norm and these disadvantages are overlooked. However, as the nuclear family becomes accustomed to independent living and often move away from their city of birth, the option for communal family living may not even be an option or consideration.
There is no denying that the generational gap, and sometimes more than one generation, does create differences in various facets of life. Whether a family can live cordially with these differences or not depends on all the individuals within the household. The elderly are at a different stage in their lives from younger adults and the minors in a family. Modern lifestyles may not mesh well with traditional ideas and be the root of much conflict.
The elderly are no doubt more needy in many instances than younger family members. Sometimes it is a matter of financial needs whereas other times it is physical care that is required. Either way it does cause some inconvenience and stress to younger family members in one way or the other. Duty and humanity is sometimes seen as an inconvenience or burden. However, this need is not only a one way issue. It is sometimes the younger family members that are more needy and dependent on senior family members for support and assistance.
As stressed before, the decision to live with family in the senior years is a personal decision. However, it is also dependent on the younger family members being willing to either move in with their parents and grandparents or accepting them within their home. When finances are involved, there is often no choice but for both parties to learn live cordially. However, where it is a matter of choice rather than need then there are many aspects of this change to take into consideration.
Old adages often come to mind when a person has to make such a major decision. “Familiarity breeds contempt”, “distance makes the heart grow fonder” and other such sayings do hold some truth but it is dependent on the individuals involved and the situation at hand. On the other hand, seniors have a shorter lifespan ahead and the last few years with family can be financially and emotionally fulfilling for both parties. Agreement needs to be reached on boundaries and roles but with two consenting parties, communal family living can be a rewarding experience in some cases or a recipe for disaster in other instances.