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Pros and cons of sharing a home

If you’re considering having an older family member move in with you, there are lots of practical and emotional aspects to think about first.
4 min read
In this article
The benefits of living with a family member The drawbacks of living with a family member Have open conversations about how it will work

The benefits of living with a family member

  • Your loved one won’t be living alone: there are all sorts of reasons why they might not find living by themselves as easy as it used to be. Running a household by yourself can be very demanding, and perhaps they are struggling to keep on top of things. They may be feeling lonely and would prefer to have their family around them. Some people feel less safe living on their own or they worry about having no one around in case of an emergency.
  • Time together: when a loved one lives with you, it allows you to spend more time with them than would otherwise have been possible. It may not only be the quantity of time that increases, but also the quality. Many older people feel reinvigorated in returning to an active family home where there is lots for them to do; and you may find that they add a welcome dimension to family life.
  • Bonding with grandchildren: any children who still live at home will be gaining a great opportunity to bond with their grandparents.
  • Practical help around the home: if you have younger children living with you, your family member could be a reliable, familiar and immediately available babysitter (and one that you probably won’t need to pay by the hour). They could also provide a much-needed extra pair of hands around the home, helping with daily tasks such as cooking and cleaning, which could be particularly valuable if you and your partner are out at work during the day. Of course, you shouldn’t just assume that they will automatically and always want to do these things, especially if they still enjoy a social life of their own. But you may find they are more than happy to help, and could enjoy the feeling of making a contribution.
  • Financial assistance: if a family member moves in with you, there’s a good chance they will be able to offer some level of financial assistance. This could be a modest and regular (weekly or monthly) contribution to the mortgage or household bills, or something more significant: for example, paying for an extension to the home, or having a conservatory built. It may even be that you and your loved one wish to pool your resources and buy a larger home together. This could be made possible by one or both of you selling your existing homes.

Many older people feel reinvigorated in returning to an active family home where there is lots for them to do.

The drawbacks of living with a family member

  • Less space: unless you are moving into a larger property, you will, of course, be sharing the same amount of space between more people. This can sometimes be a challenge, particularly in homes that already feel congested. Even if your house currently seems unduly spacious – for example, if you’re a recent ‘empty nester’ – it’s possible that your family member moving in will significantly change its feel.
  • Less time for yourself: even if your loved one is very independent and has an active social life, it’s likely that they will want to spend time with you – after all, they moved in with you for a reason. Everyone is different, of course: some people are generally quite happy in their own company, while others want constant companionship. Be aware that you’ll probably need to make some changes to your lifestyle, and be prepared to have less time for yourself.
  • Emotionally demanding: relationships with our loved ones are not always straightforward and when we live with someone, we lose the option of taking time out if tensions become strained or feelings get bruised.
  • Returning to live with a parent: some people find that returning to living with a parent can create a strange dynamic. For example, if you’re a parent with your own children living at home, it’s (usually) clear who has authority. When you yourself are middle-aged, for example, and your parent comes to live with you, these lines can become blurred, which can, in turn, create tension.
  • Taking on caring duties: if your family member requires a certain degree of personal care – for example, help with bathing or using the toilet – having them live with you may not be the right option, unless you are prepared to become their carer
  • Practical considerations: There are many practicalities to consider, such as whether the area you live in is suitable for your loved one and how it will affect your day-to-day life at home. Our article practicalities of living with a friend or family member explores these in more depth.

Have open conversations about how it will work

An arrangement such as this will only work if it suits everyone involved, which means you, your partner, any children who are still living at home and, of course, your family member. It’s important to communicate effectively so that everyone gets a chance to share their feelings on the situation, even if (for example, in the case of younger children) the final decision will not be theirs.

 

As part of your discussion, it’s a good idea to explore all the options available in case a different scenario would suit you all better at this stage. For example, live-in care, where a careworker lives in their client’s home to look after their day-to-day needs, could be an option. Or perhaps sheltered housing would work for them? This is often suited to older people who want to continue living independently, with the reassurance of extra security and help at hand if they need it.

Further reading

Living with family or a friend

There are many practical issues to consider, such as space, expectations of family life and the need for compromise ...

Cohousing

We explain what cohousing is, how communities work and the pros and cons for older people living in such a community.

Last updated: 18 Sep 2018