Multigenerational Living: Similar Situations, Different Experiences
Ed. note: This column was written in collaboration with fellow columnist Alyssa Silva for SMA Awareness Month. Read about her experiences with multigenerational living and how the two stories intersect at “Life, One Cup at a Time.”
“But don’t you want to live on your own someday?”
That’s a question I’m often asked when I talk about living with my family and how much I enjoy it.
I typically encourage questions about my life and disability. They can serve as gateways for connection, advocacy, and education.
I’ve come to dread that particular question, though. Those who ask it mean well, but answering it tends to make me feel like I’m defending my decision to live with my loving family. The pressure to leave them or give a good enough defense for staying can be exhausting.
Sometimes, strangers will even offer unsolicited suggestions for alternate living arrangements that worked well for their cousin’s best friend’s nephew who uses a wheelchair. Again, it’s well-intentioned, but it leaves me shaking my head in complete bewilderment.
I’m not the only adult with SMA that lives with their parents or other relatives. I know quite a few, including friend and fellow SMA News Today columnist Alyssa Silva.
In discussing our plans for writing about this topic, I learned that despite the similarities between our circumstances, Alyssa usually gets a very different reaction when the subject of moving out arises. Instead of having her decision to stay at home questioned, it’s often dismissed as a necessity caused by SMA.
Although this is drastically different from what I tend to encounter, it still isn’t an ideal response. In our conversation, Alyssa expressed frustration that people assume she has to live with her parents because of her disability. While living with her family does have disability-related benefits, Alyssa’s choice to live at home isn’t dictated solely by SMA.
Multigenerational living may not be the right option for everyone, but it works wonderfully for Alyssa and me. And it is actually quite common in many societies.
In the U.S., it may have previously been normal for society to view independent living as the ultimate sign of success for young adults with careers. But with more and more people redefining success, things are rapidly changing. Before long, it might even be considered cool to live with your parents. (If you ask me, it already is.)
I share a home with my mom, stepdad, 18-year-old brother, and our family pets. We are currently in the process of searching for a new home with enough space for my grandmother to live on the property, too. Having her so close to us would allow her to more easily help with my care, and we will also help care for her as she ages. And the best benefit of this arrangement would undoubtedly be that we’d all get to spend more time with Grandma.
In addition to quality family time and more people to provide care, another benefit of a shared home is shared household responsibilities. The workload of running a house never falls entirely on one person, and everyone has the opportunity to contribute in ways that are best suited to their individual skills, abilities, and interests.
Due to my physical limitations, I can’t help with things like mowing the lawn or washing dishes, but I still find other ways to pitch in. Some of my contributions look like planning and preparing a weekly meal (or ordering food for delivery), selecting family movies and activities, partaking in conversation, making sure my spaces are tidy, keeping an eye on our pets during the day, and scheduling medical equipment and prescription deliveries.
Maybe that doesn’t sound substantial, but all of those things quickly add up and would still need to be done if I stopped doing them. Everything I do benefits my family and me, which allows me to meaningfully contribute to our household.
Having the freedom to choose only the tasks that are manageable or enjoyable for me is also greatly preferable to the stress of trying to independently manage my own home and constantly find people to come take care of the things that I can’t.
This SMA Awareness Month, people in the SMA community are sharing their stories and talking about how they choose to live their lives with SMA. Living arrangements are just one aspect of life, and it’s something that Alyssa and I agreed was important to talk about.
We wanted to share our different experiences with multigenerational living to bring more awareness to the various lifestyles people with SMA choose to live. This lifestyle may not be the right fit for everyone, but it’s the one we’ve both decided is best for us.
How do you feel about multigenerational living? Please share in the comments below.
Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.
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