Up until a few decades ago, it was quite common for grandparents, grandchildren and even great grandchildren to live together. Nowadays hardly any families live with more than two generations under the same roof. However, modern labour force as well as demographic changes pose new challenges. Younger families are faced with the challenge of reconciling family and work life, while many pensioners want to actively take part in activities and contribute to society with their abilities. As a reaction to these developments, a new residential concept has recently been created by adapting to these changing structures. This new living concept applies the principle of a large traditional family: The Multigeneration House.
In a multigenerational house, people of different ages and social backgrounds live together. Every resident has his/ her own flat and room for privacy. However, there are also common rooms for meetings or shared activities. Just like in big families, people live under the same roof. Residents support each other and live according to the principle of giving and taking. And each generation brings in their own strengths.
Social interaction and neighbourly support is the foundation for the multigenerational living concept. And all residents benefit from this living arrangement. Younger residents help the elderly with their grocery shopping or care services. Despite physical impairments older residents can thus stay in their familiar surroundings, have regular social interactions and will not be faced with loneliness. There are also benefits for younger residents: The elderly have time to look after the children or help with homework. Older residents pass on their knowledge and wisdom to younger generations, they are demanded, they stay fit and learn a lot about younger generations.
In terms of architecture, a multigenerational house doesn’t need to be a specific constructions type. It can be a new construction specifically designed for multigenerational living. However, it can also be an existing building. Due to its special function, the building should fulfil certain architectural and constructional criteria. It is crucial for the house to have flats of different sizes to house singles, couples and families with children. New constructions are generally designed to be more multi-purpose and flats can later also be adjusted to the residents’ needs without requiring much additional construction work. Furthermore, multigeneration houses always have common rooms that are used according to agreed upon rules and encourage social interaction.
Since multigenerational homes must meet the special requirements of the elderly, accessibility is crucial. After all, every resident should be able to live self-determined and without needing help from others. Ground floor flats are generally most suited for the elderly. Rooms should be well-sized and easily accessible. Furthermore, the bathroom should be equipped accordingly. The kitchen must also be safe and functional.
Multigeneration real estate without residents being related to one another is a relatively new concept. Most projects have only been around for a few years. The houses, thus, have comfortable facilities such as modern building technology, a good heating system as well as heat isolation which will keep energy costs at bay. Some buildings even have their own photovoltaic system.
Anyone can live in a multigenerational house. However, whoever chooses this form of living arrangement should keep in mind that it comes with responsibilities. The multigeneration residential concept is based on living as a community and assuming responsibilities. Surely one can retreat to one’s personal space, however, there should be a general interest in communal life and social interaction. As many residents of multigeneration houses may have different life experiences, interests and opinions, interpersonal skills and the willingness to resolve conflicts are also required.
Supporting each other in day-to-day life
Social interaction and shared activities
Maintaining independence by having individual flats
Reconciliation of family and work by having childcare
Care opportunities and accessibility for the elderly
The main idea behind the multigeneration house lies in the social and neighbourly exchange between people of different age groups. This also corresponds with its definition in politics, which doesn’t view the houses as residential real estate, but as central meeting and activity places for the community. The houses offer public space for common activities and support as well as a wide spectrum of different cultural and sports programmes. Volunteers of all ages help with the organization. Thanks to cooperations with local businesses, schools and clubs, the houses have developed into a driving source for civil involvement and thus contribute to a positive city development.
There are approximately 550 multigeneration houses in almost all administrative districts and administratively independent towns in Germany. They are funded by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth. The programme “Multigeneration House” („Mehrgenerationenhaus”) was started on January 1st 2017. It offers government funding of € 14 million per year for the multigeneration houses. The current programme focuses on the demographic changes and also on the integration of migrants and refugees.