The Multi-Generational Home
These amenities will make the home more comfortable for all family members
Anyone planning a new home might want to consider age demographics. For instance, recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau projects the over-65 population growing from 47 million in 2015 to 71 million by 2030, and most older people who answered a 2016 survey by Home Advisor said they intended to stay in their homes as long as possible. These trends mean that a growing number of households will include multiple generations.
While most older homes weren’t designed for an aging population, it's not difficult to make a new home accessible.
The word "accessibility" makes some people imagine wheelchair ramps and institutional grab bars, but the truth is that a well-designed multi-generational space feels like a home, not a hospital. There are many creative ways to make a home feel welcoming to everyone, and as a bonus, accessible features provide an edge in the market when it's time to sell.
With this in mind, here are some features to consider for any new home.
An easy entry. Your builder can create a “zero step” entry by gently sloping a landscaped walkway from the driveway to an exterior door. It's an attractive alternative to a wheelchair ramp, and--if well designed--will look like a convenience, not an accessibility requirement.
A ground floor master suite. Budget permitting, this belongs at the top of the priority list. The suite's bath needs a shower with a tile floor that's flush with the bathroom floor, so that users don't have to step over a curb to get in and out. As for grab bars, the big plumbing manufacturers now offer models with looks that match specific fixture lines, so they blend in seamlessly.
The suite can also serve as a convenient office, den or guest room. If the bath’s design includes two doors (the second from an adjacent common area), it can double as a guest bath.
36-inch doorways. In many homes, the only wide doorway is the main entry, but a true multi-generational home will have wide doors throughout so that a walker or wheelchair user can reach every room. As an added advantage, wide doors make it possible to move large pieces of furniture that might not fit in a room with a 30-inch opening.
Lever door handles. Levers benefit older people with arthritic fingers, but they will also be appreciated by anyone who needs to get into the house while carrying an armful of groceries.
Visual contrast. Besides making life easier for someone with poor vision, good lighting and strong color contrast between wall and floor surfaces make for a more interesting space. The interior designer can arrange these contrasting elements to evoke nearly any mood, from joyful and energetic to subdued and serene.
Smooth, non-slip flooring. Eliminating carpet makes it easier for someone with a wheelchair or walker to get around, but it also helps keep dust and other indoor pollutants out of the air. Non-slip tile reduces anyone’s chance of slipping in the shower.
Amenities like these will enhance any home, but what if a family member has a permanent injury or a progressive illness? In that case, the professional builder can work with an occupational therapist. This medical professional has the training and experience needed to evaluate the client and to help the builder customize the space to have the right features for today and tomorrow. A custom feature could be something as simple as putting plywood backing behind the drywall in the exact spots where that particular person will likely need a grab bar in the future.
The bottom line? Nowadays, there’s no reason not to have a house that feels like home to everyone.