Smart Moves by Ellen James Martin

Pointers for Seniors Pondering Multigenerational Living

As America emerges from the pandemic, which imposed severe restrictions on family gatherings, there’s greater appreciation for multigenerational lifestyles. That’s prompting more seniors who can afford to buy a domain near their grown children and grandkids to do so.

Take the case of a retired federal administrator and his homemaker wife. The pair sold their mid-century modern suburban Maryland house, using the proceeds for a brand-new place with double the space. Not by coincidence, they chose to live just two blocks from the home owned by their grown daughter, her husband and the couple’s 2-year-old daughter in North Carolina.

Sid Davis, a Utah real estate broker with seven nearby grandchildren of his own, isn’t surprised by the quest of so many seniors for closer contact with relatives.

“At this point in our history, people are hungry for family connections. All but a few seniors would love to engineer a way to see their kids more often,” Davis says.

As he notes, these post-COVID lifestyle changes come in many forms. But all involve closer family ties --especially to grandchildren. To illustrate the point, he cites the example of one senior, a retiring school principal and neighbor who lives across the cul-de-sac from his home.

“This lady gave $70,000 to her divorced son, a computer programmer, to help him buy a house on our same cul-de-sac. Her goal is to see more of the man’s 12-year-old son. Both the boy and his grandma share a love for hiking and biking,” Davis says.

Of course, not all seniors who aspire to live closer to offspring can afford to buy a nearby home or to assist their grown children financially to make a purchase possible. But an increasing number of retirees with discretionary funds are doing just that.

“In many instances, these are people who upsize to terrifically large houses where everyone in the extended family can enjoy holidays and vacation time together,” says Davis, the author of “A Survival Guide for Buying a Home.”

Fred Meyer, who operates an independent realty firm in Massachusetts, says many retirees who buy property near family are pleased with their decision. But he cautions seniors against planning such a move without first making sure their grown children welcome the prospect.

“Ahead of a move, it’s important to have an in-depth family discussion with all involved,” Meyer says.

Here are a few pointers for seniors pondering a more family-oriented lifestyle:

-- Consider a place with genuine appeal to your family.

If the vision of a family mecca seems attractive to you, Davis says you’ll want a place that’s convenient for as many family members as possible.

“Take stock of your family and their future work plans,” he says.

Perhaps you have a grown daughter who’s made partner in an established law firm near where you wish to buy a home. Or maybe you have a son committed to his medical career in the same area. If so -- assuming good relations within the family -- you can be reasonably confident your grown kids and their families will visit often if you live close by.

But what if your children have careers in the military or foreign service and might even be moving overseas? Then you may want to delay a move until they settle down more permanently.

“You can’t chase your adult children all around the United States and the globe. Better to pick a spot that’s easily accessible for them to travel to you,” Davis says.

-- Select a setting that will attract family vacationers.

Perhaps you and your spouse would like to move to an age-restricted community. Yet you’d also like to see your kids and grandkids as frequently as possible. If so, you could well give a second thought to this plan.

“In reality, children aren’t going to find a whole lot of fun things to do in a retirement community. Rather than moving in with other seniors, pick an alternate area with more recreational attractions for the kids,” Davis says.

He suggests you consider buying a house near a neighborhood swimming pool in an area where lots of young families live. You might also look for an area well suited to fishing, horseback riding or hiking.

“Quiz the kids on the kinds of activities they really enjoy. Also, don’t forget to ask the teenagers what they think,” he says.

One advantage of buying a family-oriented home close to a vacation area is that it’s likely to be well served by a nearby airport.

-- Choose a property well suited to overnight family visits.

Do you intend to upsize to a location that will draw family members for extended stays? If so, you’ll want the right home features to accommodate everyone who comes by.

“Look for a house with at least three bedrooms and, even more important, as many bathrooms as possible. The kids can always double up in the bedrooms. But if you have only one bathroom, you’re bound to have bottlenecks,” Davis says.

Also, he recommends that those seeking to create a family mecca look for large common areas in their upsized property.

“Families love to hang out in a big kitchen with places to sit and talk. That’s why upsizers often go for a large eat-in kitchen connected to an even larger ‘great room’. This is also great for retirees who relish family fests,” Davis says.

(To contact Ellen James Martin, email her at ellenjamesmartin@gmail.com.)