The New Normal: Multigenerational Living During COVID-19

When Roshni Jain (QST ’22) returned to her family home after classes switched to online learning in spring 2020, she went back to living with her parents, her younger brother, and her grandparents. After spending two years in the Boston University dorms on her own, this sudden shift was a definite adjustment. Much like the Jain family, one in four Americans live in a multigenerational household with two or more generations, according to the Pew Research Center. This lifestyle, while sustainable, has presented new benefits and challenges in the wake of COVID-19.                                   

Photo provided by Roshni Jain

For many, the stay at home orders and quarantine protocols brought about unexpected positive experiences. Cande Palmieri (COM ’22), who traveled back to Chicago to live with her parents, her older brother (23), and younger sister (16), reflected fondly on her time at home, because she spent more time with her family, playing board games and watching TV shows. “We got much closer and it was a chance for all of us to come together again,” said Palmieri. “If it wasn’t for quarantine, I don’t think that opportunity would have come since I’m in college and my brother graduated from college.” 

Similarly, Lisa Teri, who returned to Izmir, Turkey to be with her parents and older brother (25), shared that considering the age differences and varying priorities, quarantine went significantly better than she expected. “We were able to spend more time together, which we haven’t been  able to do as much in the last three years,” she said. For Teri, quarantine was a bonding experience. 

Photo provided by Lisa Teri

However, despite the positive aspects, every family faced challenges. Whether it was financial crises, health concerns, cramped quarters, or simply clashing priorities, each BU student had their fair share of difficulties at home. 

For Jain, her main concern was the health of her older relatives. “While living with my grandparents made me feel more connected to their generation and allowed me to form a deeper bond with them, it was challenging,” she said. “I became responsible for more than myself and more than my immediate family. I was extra cautious in terms of COVID-19, never leaving the house. I was so scared of the risk, particularly in terms of what it could mean for my grandparents and their health.” While the global pandemic has brought about irreversible, heartbreaking physical losses, BU students also reflected on their experiences with intangible losses, such as loss of normalcy, control, justice, and certain freedoms. 

In New Jersey, the Coplin household also struggled with the merger of different priorities, schedules, and safety concerns. Llariley Coplin (COM ’22), who stayed with her younger sister (12), step-dad, and mother during lockdown, said, “We all took different approaches to being stuck inside, and it was hard on all of us, but for distinct reasons. While I was bummed that I couldn’t be in the office networking at the internship I had just acquired, my sister was upset because she missed running around during soccer practice. On the other hand, my mom was overwhelmed by having a whole house of hungry kids who suddenly, she was expected to feed 24/7. My dad was still working, and his worries were more on being safe and not bringing COVID-19 home.” Despite the challenges, Coplin, like Teri, valued the time she spent at home without a return ticket. 

For Mavis Manaloto (COM ’22), the challenges of multigenerational living presented itself in the form of differing thoughts and perspectives. “I think one of the biggest challenges that comes to mind was during the resurgence of the BLM movement,” she said. “My older sibling and I are on social media so we were very plugged into the news and the movement, but my parents did not have the same access to the same information as my sibling and I did, so navigating those conversations was a challenge.” 

Both a blessing and a challenge, our understanding of multigenerational living has certainly changed this past year. As Jain said, “make the most of it.”

Ada Mesci, Staff Writer

Ada Mesci is a junior majoring in public relations and psychology and minoring in public health at Boston University. Originally from Ankara, Turkey, Ada moved to the United States when she was 18. Since then, she has explored many areas of interest, especially diving deep into her love of writing and storytelling as part of The COMmunicator team. Outside of school, Ada works as a public relations intern for Jasmin Santanen Paris, developing her expertise and passion for fashion. In her free time, she enjoys discovering new recipes, practicing pilates, and backpacking.

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