Are you ready to receive the gift of intergenerational community for times like these???

by tom sine —


As of 2010 4.4 million of US homes held three generations or more under one roof a 15% increase from two years earlier according to the Census Bureau.  One of the major forces for families moving in together is the cost savings of sharing housing, food as well as providing extra help with child care and senior care.  National Public Radio has been running a series called “Family Matters” that describes how multigenerational families come together to provide for the needs of senior members.

Until the end of World War the majority of Americans lived in intergenerational households. But as the war ended we were introduced to generational segregated living models.  Not only that but we were told these models were superior to living like the Waltons. Young families flocked to the newly created suburban options and we designed age segregated retirement communities for growing waves of seniors too.

Many young people today still seem to feel some kind of obligation to buy into the script of their parent’s suburban lifestyle largely unaware of how much more expensive that model has become for their generation. For their Boomer parents it was often 40% of one income but for many young millennials it is often 40% to 50% of two incomes.   The double whammy of higher school debt than any prior generation and higher housing costs is making it almost impossible for many millennials to find time or money to invest in making a difference in a world they care so deeply about.

I have found very few colleges that make students aware of the rising costs of the single family detached housing option.  Nor do they often introduce them to intergenerational housing options that can offer them both increased community and reduced costs.

A number of people from different generations joined us for a big breakfast before our garden day here at the Mustard Seed House last Saturday.  I always prepare a large breakfast for our monthly garden days and people on different floors contribute to the fest. It is always a great way to get a Saturday moving.

During breakfast Christine, our master gardener, describes the tasks for the day.  I enjoyed planting our squash plants while others weeded and spread compost.

Our community of 10 ranges from Elias age 3 who has just found a worm, his 5 year old brother Gabriele and his 9 year old sister Catie and his parents Ricci and Eliacin who are in their 30s and live on our top floor. Christine and I who live on the middle level are the “mature” members of the household.  James and Jon live in the lowest level with a student intern named Chris…all in their 20s.

All 10 of us enjoy the wonderful waves of fruit and vegetables that come out of our urban garden reducing living costs and increasing community by sharing a meal once a week,

I think it is time to seriously question the suburban housing model that is moving increasingly beyond the reach of younger generations and often has a very large environmental footprint.  I think it is also time to seriously question the age segregated retirement model where the gifts of people my age are taken away from the communities where they are needed plus this model is becoming too expensive for  growing numbers of seniors too.  What is your response?