Adding a small sitting area allows an older family member to entertain guests without feeling as if they’re intruding on the rest of the household.
Photo by Bob Narod
Planning for multigenerational living has been on the rise in recent years. With life expectancies increasing and early baby boomers entering their golden years, this trend is expected to continue. As with any remodeling project, there are a number of factors to consider when planning a renovation for a growing household.
A Space of Their Own
A self-contained guest house or in-law suite offers the most privacy for all generations. Including a full bathroom and kitchenette, as well as a separate entrance in this space, allows an older family member to retain their independence and privacy. Adding a small sitting area allows the occupant to entertain guests without feeling as if they’re intruding. When planning, be sure to incorporate extra storage space, as it can be difficult for some folks to part with their belongings, particularly those that hold sentimental value. Finally, as interaction with the family is important, it’s nice to ensure the home’s main kitchen is sufficiently sized and a comfortable gathering area is accessible to include everyone for cherished family time.
Existing Space Strategies
If you don’t have room for an addition, either on your lot or in your budget, reworking existing space and incorporating elements of universal design can help with the transition. One cost-effective solution to consider is a residential elevator. An existing closet space or other small area can be retrofitted to accommodate the elevator, or if existing space is at a premium a small addition just large enough for the elevator shaft can be built. This can give family members with mobility issues access to more areas of the home. Recent empty nesters might repurpose their children’s rooms on the upper level to accommodate the needs of aging parents, or a small suite might be planned in a finished lower-level. If an elevator isn’t an option, a cozy second master suite might be created from a seldom used room on the first floor, such as an office or den.
Whether you’re reconfiguring space that’s already there or adding on, there are various ways to design a home with accessibility in mind. Widening hallways and doorways can help ease maneuverability issues for family members who use a wheelchair or walker. A spacious, roll-in shower with grab bars and a hand-held showerhead is ideal in the bathroom. Adding a comfort-height toilet, the height of the average chair, is helpful for those who have joint or balance concerns. Planning some sinks and countertops at lower heights in the bathroom or kitchen can offer seated individuals easier access and greater autonomy. Given the wide variety of fixtures, finishes, and accessories available, a little careful planning can help you to achieve a home that is both stylish and accessible. An added benefit of a well-planned renovation to accommodate senior parents is the space is already access-friendly if one should decide to remain in the home and age-in-place themselves.
Even if you don’t intend to have someone living with you full time, having a home that offers “visit-ability,” a movement that has grown increasingly popular in the accessible design community, provides a safe and comfortable environment for all visitors and loved ones. If I can help to answer any questions you may have on creative design solutions for multigenerational living, please let me know.
Josh Baker is the founder and co-chairman of BOWA. BOWA has more than 28 years of experience and has earned nearly 200 awards for business, design and construction excellence, including being named National “Remodeler of the Year” by Professional Remodeler magazine. Visit www.bowa.com or call 703-734-9050.