Q: We are about to become a multi-generational family, as my parents are moving in with us and our kids aren't out on their own yet. What can we do to make our home more comfortable for everyone?
A: Sharing a home with aging parents and adult children is becoming a 21st century trend.
When you consider the greater life span of the population and
young adults going back home to save money while building their career or looking for jobs, it's easy to see why this idea is practical and common.
Multi-generational house design can incorporate in one structure the idea of separate units to keep families together while preserving independence and privacy for everyone.
Different schedules, physical needs and energy levels all play into a successful design. Here are some basics to consider:
- Privacy, accessibility, universal design that will meet the needs of all ages and independent living ability levels
- Stage of life
- The idea of apartments, suites, attached units or separate units and which will work best
- Could you create in-law or guest suites with private areas for independent living, such as small kitchenettes, private baths and smaller living areas
- Can you connect the new spaces to the main house for security and economy?
- Perhaps a lower level or studio over the garage would be a good way to use space
- A residential elevator can be helpful if stairs are an issue
- The energy level of teenagers is different than that of aging grandparents, so arrange rooms accordingly
- Do any of the adult children have special needs that should be taken into account
For aging parents, some of these ideas can be helpful:
- Make sure the path of travel from parking to entry is not too long
- Create a low threshold entry so that there is no need to step over anything
- Install a wide entry door to accommodate wheel chairs or walkers
- Include private living area and a small kitchenette
- Be sure there is an accessible private bath with roll-in showers
- Work toward natural lighting in all spaces
- Keep living space to one-level
- Put grab bars in bathrooms
- Assure acoustical privacy where ever possible
- Allow for an outdoor garden space however small
- Put in non-slip floor surfaces
For security and economy, consider these ideas, sharing living spaces can also be desirable. If you are building individual spaces for the generations, you may want them to all be connected to main house for continuity. Sharing common living areas can be nice for everyone, such as a shared kitchen, library, storage area or garden.
While caring for aging parents or family members with disabilities and adult children moving back home can be challenging, it also provides an opportunity for planning a house that works for all and promotes togetherness and independence; a sense of security and privacy. Affordability of a home is especially challenging in this economy. The financial burden can be greatly reduced with multi-generational living.
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