More Gen Xers and millenials buying multigenerational homes to care for family, ambient tech poised to deliver helpful -- not just merely smart -- experiences for communal living.


EDITED 12.03.20

Gen Xers and millenials are buying multigenerational homes in higher numbers, according to a 2019 generational trends study by the National Association of Realtors.

At sixteen percent (16%) Gen Xers (ages 39-53) "are now most likely to buy a multigenerational home." Younger millenials (21-28) 6%. Older millenials (29-38) 9%. Younger boomers (54-63) made up 15% and older boomers (64-72) 13%. All three demographics cited cost, caring for aging parents and children as the top reasons.

Smart technology and multigenerational homes are driving societal change. Ambient tech is focused on providing helpful content and experiences for people sharing a space.

By matching voice or face, one member of the family can ask what their schedule is without identifying themselves, but still get personalized information like commute time and important calendar events. Helpful, personalized content can be served up according to age group. Video or music content can be restricted from younger family members, reports Android Headlines.

Multigenerational systems declined as affluence and independence increased, now showing resurgence.

Megan Kimble quotes Atul Gawande, author of Being Mortal: illness, Medicine and What Matters in the End, “For most of human history, for those few people who actually survived to old age,” he writes, “elders were cared for in multigenerational systems, often with three generations living under one roof,” CityLab.

In the U.S., multigenerational households started declining in the 1950s, as affluence and independence became more highly valued in the culture. But, the future of housing "looks nothing like today’s." Families are either buying multigenerational homes or, more often, renovating to accommodate parents and children, writes Fast Company.

Today's buyers are not only worried about the cost of homeownership, retirement, the state of the economy and climate instability, but

there seems to also be a "tighter connection just generationally between young adults and their parents,” says Chris Porter, an analyst at John Burns Real Estate Consulting who tracks housing trends. "I think that comes back to that connection between the boomers and their kids,” Fast Company.

Ambient technology promises to deliver curated content and better experiences for multiple people sharing a space.

Tech is focused on creating a seamless transition from personal to communal computing, freeing up smart home companies to concentrate on ways to serve better experiences to multiple people sharing a space, reports Endgadget.

Rishi Chandra, lead of Google Nest products, thinks "the next big thing we have to build," is a way to seamlessly transition

from " social personal computing --- that is, your phone existing solely to serve you --- to communal computing. That's when you have a device in your home that's meant to be used by several people who share your space," Endgadget.

Need for a unified platform that makes the tech helpful, instead of merely smart.

"No one asked for smartness, for the smart home. What they want is help. And so our mantra for the next five to 10 years is going to be the notion of how we can help deliver the helpful home,” Chandra told Forbes.

According to Chandra, as we enter the "fourth stage" of computing, moving "from mobile to ambient," it's not easy for homeowners to keep up with all the smart devices because there's no unified platform. Each company has its own standards and protocols, creating friction for consumers, Endgadget.

"As an industry, we're giving all the building blocks for this notion of a smart home, right? We sell you a thermostat, we sell you a camera, we sell you smart speakers, smart display, whatever it might be...But then we ask the consumer to actually build the house."

There has to be a unified platform and a "powerful and secure contextual engine in smart home companies can focus on creating experiences that are helpful and intuitive."

What is "missing" is a connectivity layer and an intelligence system that can process all the signals and understand the right output. With processing "ideally" done locally in the home, using Face Match for the Nest Hub Max to display personalized content based on facial recognition. Personal data like pictures won't be sent to the cloud. Verification will "happen on the device itself."

To do this you have to "understand the context of multiple people in the house and react to it." Chandra suggests Voice Match on Home speakers, and Face Match on the Nest Hub Max as some of the "building blocks."

Ambient tech is poised to bring curated CX into homes in order to serve up helpful experiences and creative content like an "orchestra conductor brandishing an invisible baton."

Elaine Sarduy is a freelance writer and content developer @Listing Debuts