Living in a multi-generational house: An alternative for young and old alike.
Living together instead of everyone for themselves. In multi-generational homes, everyone from kids to seniors can be housemates. But what exactly is multi-generational living? What are its pros and cons?
A rising need for multi-generational living options
Up until a few generations ago, it was common for the entire family – from the baby to the grandparents – to live together under one roof, sharing everything from breakfast to the ups and downs of life. These days, multiple generations in the same household are the exception.
However, many people are taking a new look at creating a housing community for all ages. Thus, an old-fashioned housing trend is back: multi-generational houses which provide shared living space for multiple generations while fostering togetherness and mutual support.
Common areas for socializing in the multi-generational house
In a multi-generational house, people from all age groups and stages of life live together under one roof, but have their own apartments. Singles, couples, families with children, and seniors can share a house while living independently, but still close enough to help one another out. Socialization is also inspired by common areas, such as a shared kitchen and dining room, a den, or a garden, which everyone can use under the agreed rules. There are a number of ways to make multi-generational living work, from single or multi-family dwellings with just a few people to a large community.
Multi-generational living on a small scale
A multi-generational single-family dwelling is a microcosm of cohabitation with people in various stages of life. Depending on the floor plan, for instance, the ground floor can be converted to a senior-friendly apartment for parents, while the top floor can be turned into a separate apartment for their adult children.
Multi-family dwellings are also suitable for multi-generational construction projects to house a few people. The "Wogeno" project in Neckertal is a good example. A former retirement home was renovated into a multi-generational house with 13 apartments, all kinds of shared rooms, and an organic farm on the premises.
Multi-generational living on a large scale
Multiple generations can live together in a larger residential community as well. Switzerland is already home to numerous developments that intentionally include a mixed age group of residents. Examples include the "Giesserei" development in Winterthur and the "GeWo" project in Burgdorf. Communities of this kind feature not only apartments with different amenity levels to choose from, but also cafés, playgrounds, and often a community garden that all residents can use. Active participation in social activities and help with community maintenance are also encouraged or even required.
Multi-generational living in Switzerland
Sample projects for multi-generational living
The Giesserei multi-generational development has 140 apartments and is home to some 240 adults and more than 100 children and adolescents.
The "Im Dorf" development in Schenkon, Lucerne, has 46 apartments and various community spaces for people of all ages. Tenants interact with each other regularly, and decide on many issues as a group.
"Im Dorf," Schenkon
Other multi-generational living projects
Inter-generational communities are consciously promoted and formed at the following locations.
Käpfnach multi-generational development
Located near Lake Zurich, the development comprises four buildings with a total of 25 apartments. A small shop and a kindergarten enhance the residents' quality of life.
Langnau multi-generational house
With 20 apartments, this multi-generational house in the Emmental region has been providing people of all ages the chance to live together since 2022. A 300-square-meter public playground is currently being planned, with local residents and the residents of the multi-generational house being closely involved in the planning.
The Hunziker Areal in Zurich
Diversity is a priority here at the former location of the Hunziker cement factory. The project was launched by the "mehr als wohnen" ("more than living") building cooperative.
The 41,000-square-meter site allows a wide range of people of different ages, economic status, and origins to live together. The focus here is not just placed on multi-generational living and culture; sustainability is also embraced. The Hunziker Areal is aligned with the targets set out by the 2000-watt society, an energy vision aimed at achieving greater energy efficiency.
According to the DOMUM building cooperative, one in four people in Switzerland will be retired by 2030. To satisfy the changes in housing needs, DOMUM is therefore realizing various multi-generational developments in a wide range of locations, including Winterthur, Gränichen, and Zurzach. DOMUM currently manages 286 apartments across six developments that are based on the multi-generational concept. It plans to have 456 apartments across a total of ten developments by 2025.
What to look for in a multi-generational house
Whether it's a small house or large community, ask yourself these questions before going on a multi-generational house hunt:
Who will be your neighbors?
Do you know the other residents? Especially in smaller communities, it's good to spend some time with the other residents before making a decision. After all, living side by side has the potential for conflict.
How big should the house / residential community be?
Would your needs be met by a small property or a complex with like-minded persons?
Location of the property?
Is the multi-generational house located centrally? For instance, are there stores nearby that would help older residents to remain independent?
Should you buy or rent?
Do you want to be a (joint) owner of the community, or is renting your best bet?
Who pays for what?
What are the costs of new construction or property renovations? What will maintenance and renovations cost? How are the costs split exactly between the residents?
Is everyone aware of their exact obligations and responsibilities?
Are there house rules and clear guidelines for each resident's obligations and responsibilities? Does everyone agree to them?
Multi-generational living means compromises
Living in a multi-generational house can offer many advantages. Regular interaction fosters a sense of community and cohesion. For instance, younger residents can take care of the larger shopping trips while the older generations tend to the vegetable garden or help with childcare. However, living with multiple generations does require compromise on many levels. Having one's own apartment or own house means greater personal freedom. What's more, different expectations and life models can be a source of conflict. But when the pros outweigh the cons, a multi-generational house is an appealing lifestyle for young and old.