Making your household multigenerational is fairly straightforward: have multiple generations live together in the home. Sometimes younger homeowners invite their parents or in-laws move in. Sometimes older homeowners want to age in place and have their kids and grandkids move in with them. About 50 million Americans currently live in multigenerational households.
But multiple generations often live in a home that isn’t ready for multigenerational living. Every day having to work around the problems and challenges of a home that works against the family instead of with them. Having a home that doesn’t facilitate multigenerational life doesn’t mean that you have to either deal with it or move. You can make changes that create greater harmony for the whole family.
Creating the Right Space for Multigenerational Living
The key to making a space multigenerational is Universal Design. This is design that is meant to be useful for as close to everyone as possible. Most homes are designed for able-bodied adults only, making them inconvenient or even hazardous to children and those with mobility challenges.
Top Projects to Make a Home Welcoming to the Whole Family:
Many showers in our homes are either mounted over a bathtub, or have a lip or edge you must step over to get into the shower area. That’s not the only way to have a shower, though. By installing a curbless shower, you make it easier for a person with a low step or using a wheelchair or walker to enter and leave the washing area. The whole bathroom won’t get wet, and shower users will be safer and more independent. Just one curbless shower in the home, preferably attached to the bedroom of the person who uses it, can make a huge difference.
The standard with doorways and halls in most homes can accommodate a wheelchair or walker, as long as nothing else is placed in the way and the person passing through is alone and a skilled driver. No deep pictures on the walls, no umbrella stand.
Widening, or building wide, passageways creates an easier to navigate home for everyone, not just older users and those with small children.
The First Floor Should Meet All of a Person’s Needs
Some members of the family may find stairs to be more than they can handle some days. Some people aren’t equipped to scale stairways at all. Parents of young children can find climbing stairs with kids on hips more than they want to do. The second floor and above are great places for additional bedrooms and social spaces, but the first floor of a home should meet the basic needs of life: kitchen, restroom, an accessible bedroom, and some social space.
Independent Temperature Controls
There are many reasons that different family members may feel most comfortable at different temperatures. One way to increase household harmony is to let each person spend their time in a climate that feels right for them. You just set upper and lower limits and then everyone can adjust within that range as they wish.
Being Aware of Height
At least one restroom and the kitchen should have lower counter heights. Children and people with wheelchairs can use this level, as well as standing adults. Having this lower counter area ready before kids grow into it or parents start using a chair can make independent life easier on both groups.
Installing Easy to Use Hardware
You can switch door hardware for handles that you rotate with a hand around a flat handle. They’re much easier to use than doorknobs! You can also fit sinks with knobs that are easier to use, and give cabinets more ergonomic handles too. The ways our hands interact with handles, knobs, and other hardware don’t affect the healthy and young as much as other people. Putting in hardware that is ergonomically fitting and allows users to operate them with the larger muscles of the arm instead of the small muscles of the hands is a big step towards making daily activities more enjoyable for older generations.
This includes rounded corners on tables and counters. No unframed glass table tops (which can be invisible at times), and removal of any other tripping or collision hazard. Where there are children this can include cabinet and drawer locks, and keeping electrical outlets covered or using outlet plugs. The best time to eliminate dangers is before an accident happens.
Universal and Multigenerational design are more complex and nuanced than this article can fully address. Hopefully the basics of making a home comfortable for different generations can get you think. For help making your home multigenerational, contact Robineve Interiors today.