An article in the Washington Post last week talked about the need for baby boomers to begin thinking about creating multi-generational households with their children and grandchildren now that the oldest of them are approaching 65. Pretty good thinking and even some relevant analysis, but, unfortunately, they got it wrong. Multi-generational families are not something that will happen in the future but are, in fact, happening right now. We call it Family 3.0
There are a number of factors driving this trend, including:
· Longer living parents of today's boomers are creating a 'sandwich generation' where 50 something boomers are caring for their increasingly elderly parents while still taking care of their not so young children. This has, of course, been exacerbated by the tough economic times.
· The growing existence of multi-generational families among our largest immigrant groups (Latin Americans and SE Asians)
· The relative financial health of today's 'older' generations means that for every older person moving in with their kids, 2 kids are moving in with their (older) parents. Half of all grandparents who own their own homes are carrying NO mortgage. This makes this kind of new family structure even more attractive.
This kind of multi-generational family unit is not something new; just something that took a vacation since WWII. The relative prosperity of the post war years and the increasing life spans enabled many to head off to Florida and Arizona (and wherever else). But we had been multi-generational for the entirety of our history until then and are likely to be again…with some interesting changes.
1. As our life expectancy takes us into our eighties in relatively good health, we will not be needing all that much help and will want relative independence in terms of much of our living situation. So things like separate kitchens (or at least separate times for using them), separate transportation and a certain degree of privacy will be critical. (This explains why larger, older houses with servant quarters or 'mother in law suites' are so desirable.)
2. A more equitable balance in control will develop. With the older generation still providing a significant share of the spending power (and maybe the housing power, too), they will no longer be seen as a burden by their children.
3. Even as the older generation gradually stops working full time they will generally be healthier longer than their parents. This will enable them to play a more active role with their grandchildren than the previous generation could.
Significant sociological changes sometimes sneak up on us as this one certainly has. The combination of longevity, economics and history are just compelling. Say hellow to Family 3.0.
Jerry Shereshewsky has formed a new marketing consultant firm, GrownUpMarketing, to help agencies and marketing companies strategically understand the 45+ market and the relevance to their particular brands. Jerry can be reached at email@example.com
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