The Multi-Generational Home

Anyone planning a new home might want to consider the ebb and flow of a family as it ages. A home that can accommodate playrooms for young children, returning college students looking for work and separate living suites for aging grandparents would be smart to consider certain accessible features.

The concept of multi-generational homes is not new. In fact, prior to World War II it was very common. In recent years, it has started to come back due to a few reasons. College graduates have been moving back home in order to save money and many babyboomers have had their parents move into their homes instead of senior housing. Another reason is the increase in ethnic families moving to the US who are used to living in mutlti-generational homes.

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 /seperate apartment. 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 users don’t have to step over a curb to get in and out. Grab bars now come in models that match specific fixture lines. An efficiency kitchen gives family members independence to cook themselves. The suite can also serve as a convenient office, den or guest room when needed.

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, as well allowing a baby carriage access.

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.

The bottom line? Nowadays, there’s no reason not to have a house that feels like home to everyone.