Families rediscover the financial benefits of intergenerational living as high house prices, increased unemployment and care issues take their toll, Aviva report says
About three-quarters of people in the UK have lived with other family members after turning 18, with some returning to the parental home three times as their circumstances change, according to research by Aviva.
Rising house prices, increased youth unemployment and the cost of care in older age are all driving families to rediscover the financial and social benefits of intergenerational living, with those who had chosen to live with family saying they had saved an average of £225 a month.
However, some suggest government policies do not do enough to support this growing trend.
“We are likely to see more households sharing space, costs and care,” said Stephen Burke, director at United for All Ages. “It makes economic sense, but it also has social benefits: from reducing loneliness and sharing the caring to increasing understanding between generations.”
He added: “Families have chosen to live together as a way to ‘survive and thrive’ in hard times. We need society and government to recognise and support this trend.”
Burke said current government policy did not take into account intergenerational living, with not enough support for live-in carers, and planning rules that made it difficult for people to change their homes to accommodate several generations.
“Some people are in a better position than others to house their family – there could be more done to planning policy around allowing people to either adapt or extend homes,” he said.
Of the 73% of people surveyed by Aviva who said they had lived with family as adults, most had been young adults living with parents – a trend revealed in a recent ONS report, which showed that almost 3 million people aged 20-34 were living with their parents in 2011, a 20% increase on the number in 1997.
Aviva’s survey showed the largest group were those who had lived with parents while looking for a job, accounting for 37% of people surveyed, while 30% said they had lived with parents while waiting to go to university, 18% while studying, and 16% immediately after their course was over.
Rising youth unemployment coupled with high house prices may have been a factor in driving young people back to the family fold, and the research shows that even after someone has flown the nest they may be back once, or even twice.
Of those who had spent time living with family as adults, 28% said they had left and then returned in their late 20s (typically at the age of 28), and 13% said they had been back a third time. This last stay tended to be the shortest, with 61% saying they had stayed for less than a year, compared with a typical three-year stay earlier on.
The research, which was based on a survey of more than 2,000 people, found that most intergenerational living was driven by cost, with more than half saying they couldn’t afford a home of their own and 33% saying it had helped them save to buy somewhere to live.
“As this report makes clear, rather than striking out on their own young people are having to resort to dependent living because of record levels of rent, food and energy price inflation, few jobs and few prospects,” said Angus Hanton, co-founder of the Intergenerational Foundation. “Moving back home in order to save enough money to enter a housing or rental market rigged against the young is intergenerationally unfair.”
Hanton said the report dispelled the myth that young people were “sponging off mum and dad” by showing they were choosing to save rather than spend their wages.
However, cash was not the only driver, with 10% saying they have moved in with an older relative in order to care for them.
This was the case for Bee Rawlinson who has been living with her mother, a vascular dementia sufferer, for 18 months and is her full-time carer. In June her teenage daughter moved to join her in Lancashire, while her three older sons live in Devon.
“The advantages are that Ma is able to live at home with me as her carer,” Rawlinson said. “She has a good pension so is able to support both of us.” However, she said the disadvantages “are legion”. As well as living away from three of her children, living with her mother means there is little respite. “I am ‘on duty’ 24/7 for weeks on end,” Rawlinson said.
Helena Herklots, chief executive of the charity Carers UK said her organisation was seeing more people taking on greater caring responsibilities for their parents and relatives.
“There are over 6 million carers in the UK, many of them are making huge life changes including moving in with parents needing care and giving up work to care because of the lack of flexible services,” she said.
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