Multigenerational Families Make It Work Under One Roof

Image credit: Jessica Bruno

Jessica Bruno is the ultimate "boomerang kid" in Sutton, Mass.

When the 39-year-old moved back into her childhood home with her parents almost four years ago, she brought along her husband and son. Eventually, the house guests became permanent fixtures.

"I like being with my family," Jessica Bruno said. "My mom and dad are my friends. For me coming back home, it took a while to get used to it but I wouldn't go back."

Then, eight months ago, her grandparents moved in.

"We have four built-in baby sitters," she said. "The key is multiple TV rooms. It really works for us."

" Four Generations One Roof" is not only the name of Jessica Bruno's blog, but also how one would describe her living arrangements. With longer life expectancies, higher costs of elder care and increasing demand for child care, traditional single-family dwellings may no longer meet the demands.

"The thing that makes it work especially for me is that it's a big house and we have our own kind of sections," said Jessica Bruno's husband, Tony Bruno. "We have our privacy."

Multigenerational households are making a comeback, largely because of unemployment and foreclosures. Prior to World War II, about a quarter of the American population lived with extended family.

By 1980, 12 percent did. Since the start of the Great Recession in 2008, however, 16 percent - nearly 51 million Americans - are now sharing morning coffee with mom and dad, according to a census analysis by the Pew Research Center in March 2010.

And many seem happier that way. A recent study released by Generations United, an advocacy group, said that 82 percent of people living in multigenerational family homes thought their living arrangements enhanced family bonds.

"Our country started with multigenerational households and that gradually changed, but people are coming to realize that families are stronger together. We should be celebrating families in all the ways we can," said executive director Donna Butts of Generations United. "Families need support. … There's a lot of success and strength when families help each other."

Grace LaRock, Jessica Bruno's grandmother, said it was a wonderful thing.

"You've got someone if you need someone, someone to depend on if you need," she said. "It's just nice to be near the family."

A survey by Pulte Homes found that 75 percent of empty nesters did not report being happier once their children moved out.

Of course, the additional family members have meant multiple renovations to ensure proximity and privacy. Fortunately, Jessica Bruno's father is in construction.

"At the end of the day, all you really have is family," Tony Bruno said. "When we're all here together, it's what's important. It's what's important in life. I am pretty grateful I have this."