The Role of the Extended Family in Late Adulthood

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  • 0:02 Late Adulthood
  • 0:49 Caregiving
  • 2:51 Trends
  • 4:31 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

As people age, their extended family becomes more important. In this lesson, we'll examine how multigenerational living arrangements can affect older adults and examine trends in multigenerational living arrangements.

Late Adulthood

Tyler is really excited. He's about to turn 80, and he's really looking forward to his birthday bash. All of his family will be there! Tyler is in late adulthood, or the time of life after age 65. This is often a time of great change for many people. For example, Tyler's life is changing; he struggles with his health some and is having trouble keeping up with the maintenance on his home. As a result, he's planning on moving in with his son and daughter-in-law and their kids. As Tyler illustrates, extended family relationships can change as a person ages. Let's look closer at some of the ways that extended family can play a role in an older person's life.


Tyler is going to move in with his kids and grandkids, and he's excited about it. Not only is it a good chance to connect with his family, he also doesn't have to worry so much about being alone in a big house. As with Tyler, many older adults find that living with family can offer help in two different ways:

  1. Direct caregiving: In direct caregiving, the younger generation takes care of the older generation. For example, Tyler might need help taking his medication or going to the doctor. His son and daughter-in-law can take care of him and help him with those tasks.
  2. Indirect caregiving: Getting direct help from his family is not the only reason Tyler wants to move there. He's also looking forward to spending more time with his kids and grandkids. Indirect caregiving refers to benefits of being around the younger generation that do not involve direct care. For example, Tyler will be happier with his family than he would be alone. This is an emotional benefit. Other benefits include cognitive, neurological, and financial benefits, among others.

Tyler is really excited about moving in with his family, but it's not all rosy. There are some issues that can come out of multigenerational living arrangements. For example, there can be additional problems that come up for Tyler's son and daughter-in-law due to the financial and emotional strains of caregiving. People who live with and take care of both their parents and their kids are called the 'Sandwich Generation,' and that can be a stressful time.

Elder abuse, or abuse or neglect of an older adult, is another problem that can happen with intergenerational relationships, particularly when it comes to living together. Though Tyler has a very nice son and daughter-in-law, he knows some people who were abused by their own kids when they moved in with them. That can cause serious emotional and physical issues in older adults.

As we've already seen, Tyler is planning on moving in with his kids and grandkids in a multigenerational living situation. Some of Tyler's friends think he's crazy; 'that's not normal,' they say to him. Are they right? Is the idea of multiple generations living together under the same roof weird?

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