Elaine Wildy, center, and her children, Christopher, 10, and Jackson, 5, and her husband, Ralph, pose with her mother, Sharon Rowe, in their multigenerational home.

Elaine Wildy, center, and her children, Christopher, 10, and Jackson, 5, and her husband, Ralph, pose with her mother, Sharon Rowe, in their multigenerational home.

Photo provided by Mary Beckerman

Multigenerational living encourages communal family life

By: Sherri Kolade | C&G Newspapers | Published May 8, 2018

 The Wildys’ house is in Milford. A larger living space is typically found in a multigenerational home.

The Wildys’ house is in Milford. A larger living space is typically found in a multigenerational home.

Photo provided by Mary Beckerman


METRO DETROIT — When it comes to multigenerational living, Mom, Dad, the kids — and grandparents — always have a space to come home to, together.

That is the attitude that Mary Beckerman, a Realtor at Keller Williams in Commerce Township, says is staying — and possibly on the rise — after she sold two homes, and counting, to two multigenerational families within a seven-month time span.

“We’ve always heard about the in-law suite, and I believe it has taken another lifestyle on its own, and it is more about multigenerational families coming together,” Beckerman said.

Beckerman is not alone in this observance of the uptick in multigenerational living. 

Generations United — a multigenerational living advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. — reported that multigenerational households have “rapidly” increased in the last few years.

According to the group’s statistics, 1 in 6 Americans presently lives in a multigenerational household, and the number increased from 46.5 million in 2007 to 51.4 million by the end of 2009.

According to Generations United’s website, multigenerational living is boosted by the fact that people are marrying later. More unmarried 20-somethings continue to live with their parents by choice or due to economic necessity.

Bloomfield Hills resident Aaron Goldfein and Milford resident Elaine Wildy have had experiences with multigenerational homes.

Goldfein said that he added onto his home in order to make his ailing father feel more comfortable when moving from California to his place in 2010.

Goldfein’s father suffered from Parkinson’s disease — and later dementia — and Goldfein began working on the home after foreseeing his father’s illness worsening in 2009.

“When I built it, the plan was to build, like, a father-in-law/mother-in-law suite,” Goldfein said. “So when my dad came to visit, he would have a nice place to stay with his own privacy.”

Beckerman said that the mother-in-law suite is common, but larger, more integrated homes are being seen today.

“I see the multigenerational (housing) as being something that really popped up in the last 10 years,” she said, adding that in her viewpoint, the mother-in-law suite has been around for quite a while. “I think that it is not about the mother-in-law suite; it is about the families moving in together. … Whether it be a mother or father … everybody is under one roof.”

Goldfein said that his father had a long-term medical care plan so that he could live in a nursing home, but Goldfein didn’t want him in a nursing home in California. Plus, living with Goldfein would save in costs otherwise spent in a nursing home.

Beckerman echoed similar thoughts.

“People are finding that you can take a look in the newspaper and read about all the different homes for senior living (that are) very costly and they don’t provide the interaction,” she said. 

Goldfein said that he had the right amenities for his father at home. 

“I love my father and wanted to take care of him and help him as much as I could,” he said, adding that he had a housekeeper who helped out too.

His father died in 2012 and was able to experience his final years living with his son in a home tailored for him.

“He had his own privacy,” Goldfein said. “(He) got to be in a home setting and spent time with his son.” 

Goldfein added that his father enjoyed a sprawling backyard with a Jacuzzi, a swimming pool and waterfalls.

“He would sit out in his wheelchair and said he can’t believe I did all this,” Goldfein said.

Goldfein said that preparation is key when it comes to planning on multigenerational living.

“I was very pleased that I had prepared ahead of time and that I got to spend those years with him,” he said. “Every evening, I got to spend time with him.”

He also said that some people don’t want to go the route of helping aging parents at home as opposed to a nursing home, while some are not able to financially. 

“Not everybody can handle that — I am a physician. … I encourage people that can afford to do that … I had a very unique situation,” Goldfein said, adding that he offered his father medical care when needed.

Beckerman said that when it comes to searching for a multigenerational home for a client, it boils down to getting to know your client and finding the perfect home for them.

She said that Wildy, a wife and mother to two boys, had different needs for her multigenerational home with her mother coming to live with them. 

Beckerman said Wildy didn’t want her mother home alone, and she wanted her to be around her grandchildren. 

“When they are integrated with their family, they seem to have more pep in their whole lifestyle. … There has been such a separation of family, (and) we now see family coming back together for many reasons,” Beckerman said.

Wildy, an only child, said that she and her husband lived across the street from her working mother, Sharon, 70, for 17 years in Southfield before bursting at the seams of their two-bedroom house after having their second child. 

After putting her house on the market and looking for another home, she realized that she didn’t want to be too far from her mother, and her mother was a great help to her older son, who has autism.

“I couldn’t see myself leaving her, so we decided to sell both of our houses, and we had started looking,” Wildy said, adding that it was hard initially to find a house where everyone had their own space.

She said that Beckerman guided them back to the initial house they looked at — where they live now — a four-level, roughly 5,000-square-foot home. Her previous home was about 1,700 square feet. The home was initially out of their price range. 

“We looked at a lot of homes that had mother-in-law quarters … and I didn’t want her to be in her own little space,” Wildy said, adding that combining family incomes to pay for the house helped greatly.

Beckerman said that the average price of a home on the market today is in the upper $200,000s to $300,000; an expanded home with two families living in it costs about $500,000 to $600,000.

Wildy added that the family’s four-bedroom, two-bathroom home has a first-floor bedroom and full bath for her mom. The basement, which is finished, has a full kitchen and full bath also, along with a playroom. 

Wildy said her mother uses the kitchen downstairs to “do her own thing,” and sometimes the children will go downstairs and eat with her.

“It depends on what (kind of day) we have,” she said, adding that some days it is pretty hectic, as she and her husband run a business and her husband has a long daily commute.

Her mother takes one child to day care and helps with a lot around the house.

Wildy said that she has a roughly 200-square-foot space on the balcony to unwind and watch TV, while her husband has a roughly 900-square-foot garage-turned-man-cave to mix music as a hobby.

She said that living together peacefully is key and having boundaries with one another is important.

Wildy said that she also has the mindset that the space belongs to all of them.

“When it is all said and done, it is ours. … It’s everybody’s home,” she said. 

Beckerman said that she is looking forward to the future with this housing trend.

“It excites me to see this, and I just look forward to working with other people that are thinking about how can we come together in a home, and where is the right home,” she said.