There is no disputing the fact that multigenerational living situations are rising. Whilst these arrangements are commonplace in many overseas cultures, this is a renewed phenomenon in the US, growing from the 2007 Global Financial Crisis. From 2007 onwards – in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, the number of households comprising what can be deemed as multigenerational occupants, has increased exponentially.
US military active and service retired families benefit from the presence of extended family housing. When service members are deployed, they often have no choice other than to leave their children in the care of grandparents or other live-in family members.
It should be properly recognized that grandparents provide care for an estimated 155,000 children of parents currently serving on active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is a staggering number of children and thus, the role of grandparents should be properly recognised in our nation’s military efforts.
It is important to note that 17% of active service military and veterans purchased a multigenerational home, compared to only 12% of non-military. This further outlines the importance of multigenerational living arrangements amongst our military family service.
Multigenerational living can also enhance the lives of retired military members. Rather than face conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, limited mobility, poor nutrition outcomes, self-neglect and the known early killer isolation; retired military members can be emotionally supported by their families. This can reduce feelings of isolation and assist in overall recovery.
Our military service members and families deserve better than to die alone and without loving family support. Policy makers need to recognise the importance of multigenerational living and in doing so, attribute the necessary resources available to support these families.
The rise in multigenerational living arrangements can be attributed to two major factors – rising housing costs and an aging population.
There has been a push in some areas for more concerted housing initiatives to support multigenerational households.
The initiative known as Elder Cottage Housing Opportunities (ECHO) was launched over 25 years ago – as a plan to supply small, low-cost, freestanding or temporarily semi-attached to a home manufactured unit.
As a society, we are currently living through a time of great financial uncertainty. As a result, elderly family members often move into the home of their adult children. These family members may have health issues and moving in with their adult children can be a positive lifestyle option. They can be better supervised and in doing so, engage on a deeper level with the rest of the household. This can combat feeling of loneliness that are so prevalent in elderly citizens.
Whilst this can be viewed by some as a burden, it should be noted that elder family members can provide invaluable wisdom to their families. As a society, we should be reminded that grandparents can serve as wonderful mentors for their own children and their grandchildren.
Military service families often have grandparents, aunts, uncles or other extended family living with them to help them meet the demanding deployments and extended periods away from their children. These family members often help minimize the ongoing trauma of separation and feelings of abandonment most military children feel – by having familiar family members close by to comfort and guide them through these difficult times.
Military service families are often forced to make difficult decisions by sending their children to these family members’ homes, because the military service family lacks proper housing at their respective bases.
Multigenerational family housing can solve part of this issue.
About 40% of grandparents who have cared for their grandchildren have noted that they have taken on that responsibility for five years or more. This would indicate that this arrangement is likely to be permanent. Since a grandfamily consisting of two generations – grandparent and grandchild, does not constitute the definition of multigenerational, this becomes problematic.
As was previously mentioned, grandparents provide care for an estimated 155,000 children of parents currently serving on active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is certainly about time that the role of grandparents and all extended family members that care for military children, be recognised more broadly for their military service family efforts.
As evidenced, multigenerational households can combat the isolation military service families, in particular military service children feel, when one or both parents are a vital role in the deployment of military personnel.