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'You never feel lonely': How one family keeps their culture close to home

Multi-generation homes are becoming more common in Canada

Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

'You never feel lonely': How one family keeps their culture close to home

Multi-generation homes are becoming more common in Canada

Photo: Roxanna Rohani Mohtadi / Submitted
Photo: Roxanna Rohani Mohtadi / Submitted
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

'You never feel lonely': How one family keeps their culture close to home

Multi-generation homes are becoming more common in Canada

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'You never feel lonely': How one family keeps their culture close to home
Photo: Roxanna Rohani Mohtadi / Submitted

Capital Daily good news coverage is supported by Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, but the stories and journalism are produced independently by Capital Daily. Per our policy, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria has no editorial input into this story.

Roxanna Rohani Mohtadi never imagined she’d live in a quiet household.  “Every Friday night, we would have a huge family dinner and that would include like 40 of us,” she said.

Up until a month ago, when her grandmother passed away, four generations of her family—eleven people in total—were living at the family home in Oak Bay. Mohtandi, her husband, and her two children have since moved out.

“My parents still live in the house, my sister lives there, and her kids live there too,” she said. “That's kind of how it’s always been.”

Mohtadi and her family are Iranian, from the Baha’i faith—the second largest faith in Iran—and 54 years ago, they left Iran and moved to Victoria. Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, her family has never gone back.

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“I’ve never been [to Iran],” Mohtadi said. “My family escaped from Iran before the revolution.”

Baháʼís were often persecuted in Iran, but during the Islamic Revolution, Baháʼís were imprisoned, expelled from schools and workplaces, and denied benefits, such as marriage. Since 1979, 202 have been killed.

Despite having not been to Iran in 43 years, the family has kept their faith intact, and brought aspects of their Iranian life—like living in a big family home—with them to Victoria.

“It's awesome living in a multi-generational home because we always have someone to take care of our kids,” Mohtadi laughs. “It's amazing to always have family around. You always have food, and you never feel lonely.”

Multi-generational homes are becoming more common in Canada.  

According to Statistics Canada, one in 10 children under 14 were living under the same roof as at least one grandparent in 2021—seven percentage points higher than in 2001. South Asian grandparents, in particular, are eight times more likely to live with their grandchildren. These living arrangements could make sure relatives receive the care they need as they get older.

Canada’s population is aging, leading to questions about if there will be adequate supports—from housing to health care to companionship—for the growing number of seniors.

Approximately half of people over the age of 80 reported feeling lonely, according to the Canadian National Seniors Council, which is shown to have negative health consequences like depression and decline in cognitive and physical ability.

Living with family in a multigenerational household provides a stable living situation for older adults that drastically decreases social isolation and its negative effects.

The Statistics Canada data also shows that children living with a grandparent are more likely to speak a language other than English or French at home, allowing their family's culture and language to more easily be passed down from generation to generation.

But that’s not to say it’s all smooth sailing. “You have no privacy whatsoever,” Mohtadi said. “You're all in each other's space. So you don't really have your own space at all.”

Mohtadi’s husband needed some time to adjust. While his family is also Iranian, he was born in the US. “My husband didn’t grow up like this at all.”  she said. “We’ve been married for 12 years now, and it was really difficult for him [to live in a multi-generational home] since the family is in on every discussion—like raising our kids.”

In a big family, such as Mohtadi’s, you can’t get away with much. When she was younger, and going clubbing, Mohtadi said she’d never hear the end of her late-night escapades. “The next morning my uncles would be like, ‘Why were you at the club with this person? Why are you dancing with this person?’” she said. “But that’s just how it was.”

Despite the squabbling, Mohtadi said she intends to pass big family living on to her two daughters, aged 8 and 11. She said she knows of more and more families with multi-generational living situations.  

“It’s just easier, especially with house costs right now.”

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