Gettin’ Up There: Multigenerational living can be a ‘win-win’ for all

Sunday Signal

For some seniors, living with family members is not a doable situation. For others, it has become a functional, successful and treasured norm.

Dr. Gene Dorio, a local geriatric physician, acknowledges that multigenerational housing is coming back, sometimes because of family ties, other times due to financial necessity.

“In Santa Clarita, I have a couple who are living in a multigenerational home … the older adults are living in a closely monitored arena, while they also serve to care for the grandkids,” Dorio explained. “Two other patients have grandkids living with them as they have disabilities, and the kids assist in the monitoring and caregiving of their grandparents.”

This rising trend can be a boon for everyone’s peace of mind, with safety, security, improved quality of life and financial savings as rewards.

“Older adults don’t want to go to a nursing home and prefer to aging in place. Sometimes, living with family members works, even if it is not in their original home. Patients and family members are concerned about older adults falling, not taking medicines correctly, inability to care for their home or pets or maintain good health and nutrition. These can be sustained and monitored better in the same home,” stated Dorio, who also is a longtime co-host with Barbara Cochran on Hometown Station KHTS’ The Senior Hour.

With multigenerational living, there is less isolation and loneliness for seniors, along with increased social contact, and that’s an invaluable benefit. But perhaps the best part of such living arrangements is found in the long-term effect it has on the young people growing up in these homes.

“I have seen that some of these kids learn to better understand the developing frailty of the human body, and provide empathy, sympathy and care for those they love,” Dorio said. “Such responsibilities allow kids to mature and grow faster which serves them well later in life. I have a friend whose grandmother and father had cancer, and because of this experience, instilled within him was a richer emotional understanding, driving him into medicine. He came back, and now serves the people of Santa Clarita as a physician.”

A similar outcome is evidenced by the beliefs of SCV resident Laura Pryts Chesler, who grew up in a multigeneration home and eventually became a caregiver for her matriarchs.

“I would do it all over again, as hard as some of it was,” Pryts Chesler said. “My (maternal) grandma came to live with us when I was 10, until she passed away at 99. I loved growing up with Grandma Annie in the house. I was so lucky.”

In time Pryts Chesler, the annual giving officer at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, became a full-time caregiver to her own mother, who suffered from dementia and later died from the disease.

“Although that was a very difficult time, there were many bright spots,” the daughter avowed. “I cherish the days we had together … she was such an incredible mother and human being. The least I could do was honor her and show my love and gratitude.”

Next Gettin’ Up There column: “Sisters in Time,” a soon-to-be-available senior shared-living program through which females with room in their home can be matched with women who seek affordable housing.

Diana Sevanian is a retired registered nurse and longtime Signal features staff writer and columnist.

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