Seeking the 'glow' of cohabitation

I have never received so much engaged response from readers on any topic, and I have never stayed on a topic for three consecutive columns — until now.

I began by exploring the decisions involved in deciding whether to move closer to children and grandchildren. Then, with the help of a reader, I examined the sometimes anguishing challenges that surface in wanting or needing ailing parents nearby for care-giving purposes.

I left something out. The comfort and joy that comes from multiple generations living under one roof. There is much more satisfaction with those arrangements than I previously thought. Much more.

If grandma is going to be living in your guest room until the end of her days, or your daughter's family of five will be moving in soon, what makes that work smoothly?

There's a highly informative and well-researched book (Amazon-rated at 4.6 on a 5-point scale) called "Together Again: A Creative Guide for Successful Multi-generational Living" that might be worth your reading time. You might also talk to someone about their own experiences. I have names — and numbers. And this week, in speaking with several of these folks, I realized they positively glow when discussing this topic. It surprised me.

Baby boomers favor independence; there is research to support that. But with tightening budgets and health care issues with aging parents, the reuniting of extended family may require a rethink. The authors of the book mentioned above, Graham and Niederhaus, write about all this with clever humor. They take the approach, "Never mind how you landed here..."

It's less about turning the dining room into a bedroom for your aging father and more about the practical considerations involved in deciding to reside in close proximity to family.

This I know: If I end up cohabiting at some point in the future, I want to "glow" when I tell stories about it.

The book reminds us that physically restructuring the environment to the degree you can, for accessibility and easy living, is of the utmost importance. Privacy is a key consideration — no matter how well you get along with your 85-year-old mother. Also, whatever the circumstances, financial responsibilities and household duties should be clearly outlined in advance. Periodic sit-down-and-talk check-ins are advisable.

I have certainly not exhausted all the considerations involved in where and how we live most optimally in our later decades. I hope I have launched or expanded discussions you need to have in your own family.

But I have learned one thing: There are many versions of happily ever after.

Sharon Johnson is a retired Oregon State University associate professor emeritus. Reach her at 541-261-2037 or

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