January 29, 2014 | by Josh Baker
Is your home ready for every generation?
elevator, real estate, multigenerational living, gay news, Washington Blade

Adding an elevator to your home can ease mobility challenges for aging parents.

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 a result, many of today’s remodeling projects focus on creating spaces that are adaptable to evolving life circumstances. Depending on your family’s needs and home’s characteristics, there are several approaches for preparing your home for multigenerational living:

Adding a comfortable space

A self-contained guesthouse 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, because family time is important, it’s nice to ensure the home’s main kitchen is sufficiently sized and a comfortable gathering area is accessible.

Getting smart with existing space

If you don’t have the room for an addition, either on your lot or in your budget, reworking the 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, 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.

Incorporating universal design

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 will already be access-friendly if you decide to remain in the home and age-in-place. 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.

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