It’s becoming increasingly common for multiple generations to live within one house. Some experts estimate that the number of individuals living with their parents is the highest its been in 130 years. This can be due to multiple reasons: first, individuals who require extra assistance and care might need to live with parents or caretakers. Second, it’s not uncommon for parents to move back in with their children in older age. This is more common than not in other countries. Finally, young adults are moving out later and later in life, culminating in larger households with increased needs.
If you are caretaking for a family with mixed abilities, or are preparing to, there are many things you will want to take into consideration regarding how you can make your space as accommodating as possible. You will need to work with space as well as utility. With more individuals all living in a single family home, you will need enough space to organize and function within your home, and you will also possibly need new fixtures and appliances that make caretaking a lot easier, particularly for the elderly or those with mixed abilities.
What’s Required For Healthy Living?
The goal of updating your home to accommodate a larger or mixed ability family is to make your space as healthy and functional as possible.
Consider the kitchen
First, the most common space for families to spend time together is in the kitchen and dining area. This is where everyone will meet for meals, which is important for health and connection. You will want to make sure that you can accommodate everyone you need in both of those rooms, either by adding more seats to an island or getting a larger dining table to fit everyone.
You might also need to upgrade some of your appliances. You might want a larger farmhouse sink or utility sink, a larger refrigerator for food storage, or even an upgraded dishwasher. All of these will make meals with a larger family easier and more streamlined.
Last, you might want to renovate your cabinets to make food, snacks and other items more accessible to those who need to access them. A more open floor plan in the kitchen — without a large island in the center — will make it much easier for people to move around the room and get what they need. This also makes it easier for more than one person to use the kitchen at the same time.
Consider the bathrooms
One of the other most important aspects of a home that can accommodate everyone in your family is the bathrooms. With many people in the home, having multiple toilets and showers makes everyone more comfortable, reduces or eliminates wait times to use the bathroom, creates more comfort and a sense of privacy, and can even make getting ready at night or in the morning that much faster and easier.
First, you might want to renovate small bathrooms to make them full bathrooms, or if you have a closet that is of size, you can even create a small half bath to be used as well.
If you have a mixed ability family, your bathroom features will be extra important. In this case, you might need a comfort height toilet, a shower with a seat or detachable shower head for easier access to washing, grab bars, handrails or other assistive resources. This is so that these individuals can either bathe more easily on their own, or you can care-take for them with more ease.
Consider the bedroom spaces
Though it is not always possible, it is most ideal for each individual in the home to have their own bedroom. If you do not have enough space, younger children can more easily share rooms, while it is important that older individuals or grandparents are given their own space.
To make the bedroom more comfortable and personalized, easy adjustments can be made, including painting, redecorating, and the addition of comfort items, such as individual air conditioners, more organization in the closet, or plants and other items to give the space a sense of hominess.
Consider the laundry room
With a larger family comes more responsibilities, chief among them cleaning. You might think that your laundry room is only a space for you to wash and dry clothes, but it can serve so much more function than that.
First, you can add more organizational features, such as multiple bins to separate clothes either by color or per individual. Then you can add freestanding drying racks, shelves to store soaps and detergents, and even a board on the wall for your cleaning or washing schedule.
Then you can add a utility sink to make it easier to wash items without having to always utilize a sink or bathtub, which are likely going to be used a lot with a larger family home.
Consider overall accessibility
Lastly, you will need to consider whether or not it is possible for all members of your family to easily move up and down stairs. If not, you will need to look into ramps or other accessibility features to install on one or more doors in your home. If that individual cannot go up stairs easily, you will also need to create a bedroom space for them on the ground level, and ensure that there is a bathroom for them there as well.
If this is the case with your family and you are considering a more large-scale renovation, an open floor plan on the first floor is also ideal. Not only can more than one person relax, cook, eat and still be able to speak and connect with one another, but this makes it easier to move around and get from one room to the next.
In the end, your home has to work for you and the individuals that you live with. Whether this means sacrificing some style for the sake of function, what’s most important is that you live in a space that makes you feel calm, at ease, and works as best as possible for your individual needs.
Consider an in-law suite
An in-law suite is a space that is either attached or next to your home in which you can have a separate, private space for your parents or grandparents to live. Typically, they are made from garages, basements, sheds or attics that are converted to be more livable.
The benefit of an in-law suite is that it allows for those individuals to live in a separate space that has living, bathing and cooking quarters, and typically also has a separate entrance. This allows you to be close and connected to your loved one, while still giving them the autonomy and space they’d like while preserving yours as well.
Todd Nelson, a business developer at Light Stream, told realtor.com that “many seniors want to retain their independence but live in a more age-friendly environment.” He went onto say that he estimates in-law suites to initially cost between $40,000 to $125,000, but while that “might seem like a lot upfront, they can save families thousands of dollars in the long-run.” However, others estimate that the addition of an in-law suite — depending on what you install — can cost as little as $10,000.
This might be true, but you can reduce those costs by first assessing your own family’s needs, and deciding what you do and do not need to install.