June 22, 2023

Home Additions for Multigenerational Living

Going back several decades in America, multigenerational homes were the norm.  Grandparents lived with their adult children and helped with raising the grandkids, doing the laundry, or cooking the evening’s meal. It wasn’t unusual to see two or even three generations in the kitchen with someone stirring something hot and delicious on the stove, while someone else was making a salad and slicing a baguette, while a younger family member was setting the table.

Times changed a few years later and families went their separate ways.  Grandparents stayed in their homes, adult children went off to college, then found their own apartments.  Eventually they got married and had kids of their own.  And the cycle continued.

As the saying goes “what goes around, comes around.”  And today, the popularity of multigenerational homes has begun to blossom.  In fact, as of March 2023, it’s estimated that over 84 million American households are now considered multi-generational.  And that number, according to Pew Research, has quadrupled since the 1970s.

Almost 30% of homes—both new construction and remodeled homes—now house two generations, parents and their adult children aged 25 or older.  Three generation households number almost 27 million and include grandparents, parents, and grandchildren.  And the balance of multigenerational homes has grandparents raising grandchildren or more than three generations living together.

There are some great benefits derived from living in a multigenerational household.  Probably one of the biggest benefits is that your quality of life is improved.  Having several generations together can help financially, can create a warm, close-knit family atmosphere, and it can weave stories told by the different generations into the very heart of everyone involved.

By putting a plan into place beforehand and by agreeing to share costs, household chores, transportation duties, etc., you can remodel your home and your expectations so that your new lifestyle together brings a greater level of efficiency, togetherness, and other positive advantages.

With Baby Boomers now in their 70s, 80s, and even 90s or older, multigenerational homes are becoming much more popular.  We’re ageing in much better ways, we’re healthier and more physically fit as we age, and we’re living longer.  

If you’re considering building an addition to your current home to accommodate parents or grandparents, for example, you should research what “aging in place” involves and how you can make this transition as easy as possible for everyone involved.  The trend for “aging in place” started about 9 years ago and it will continue as people live longer, healthier lives, as housing prices stay out of reach for many adults, and as the cost-of-living increases.

Of course, when remodeling or adding rooms to create a multigenerational home, there are a number of things that must be considered.  The zoning laws of your city or town need to be researched.  Building permits must be pulled.  Blueprints need to be drawn and approved.  A construction company must be hired. Materials bought and delivered, windows and doors chosen, and oh, so much more.

But first and foremost, after you get all the necessary approvals, have a construction company in place and ready to go, you’ll need to consider your need for privacy.  The more people within your home, the greater you risk losing your precious privacy.  

One way to ensure that you all have your privacy is to add a master suite for your parents or grandparents.  A master suite can include a bedroom, a bathroom, and perhaps an additional “sitting room”.  These additions provide separate living spaces but allow you to remain near your older family members. And you can incorporate a private entrance and exit giving even more privacy.

When you’re adding an additional master suite, keep in mind who you’re building it for.  Eliminate the tub and install a walk-in shower with grab bars inside and no small step-up.  Install a raised toilet with grab bars next to it.  

Keep all the rooms on the same level, no step-downs into a sitting room or bedroom.  Install built-in bookshelves to take up less floor space.  Make sure you have sufficient lighting for older people who may not see as well as they once did.  And keep the master suite as uncluttered as possible with an open space design.

Safety is also a concern.  Most older people don’t want to (or can’t) be climbing stairs.  In this case, a master suite should be built on the main level of your two-story home.  If you have a single-story home, an addition can be expertly built on the side or back of your house.  

Of course, with any addition, you want it to look as though it’s part of the original house plan.  Getting the right designer, architect, and construction company is extremely important.

Another way to add room for ageing parents or grandparents is to construct an in-law suite.  In-law suites are usually a separate building on the same property as your home.  They can be connected to your house by an enclosed walkway, or free-standing with a path to your door and their own separate gardens, or outside seating areas.

An in-law suite can include a bedroom, bathroom, a small kitchen, a living room, and a small laundry.  Think “tiny houses.”  And remember, your parents or grandparents want to retain as much of their independence as possible and at the same time they want to be close to their kids and grandkids.  They want to feel safe, yet independent.  And they want to feel useful.

What else should you consider?

  • Storage space that can be easily accessed.
  • Flooring that prevents slipping and falling.
  • Wider doorways and hallways, especially in the case of wheelchair bound seniors.
  • Open floor plans that are easier to navigate.
  • Internet access and maybe even an emergency call system.

The whole idea of building an addition or free-standing structure at your home for multigenerational living is to make life easier.  There will be less travel costs to and from your parents’ or grandparents’ homes.  You’ll be able to share or even divide the cost of living:  utilities, HVAC, home insurance, real estate taxes, etc.  And both you and your senior family members will have peace of mind, knowing that you’re right next door to them.

Adding to your current floorplan can increase the value of your home, especially now that “aging in place” has become more and more of the trend.  Increased living space, privacy, independence, and peace of mind are only a few of the positive advantages of multigenerational living, however.

Multigenerational homes enhance the bonds and relationships family members have with one another.  They can improve family finances and have a positive impact on personal, mental, and physical health.  Seniors live longer when around younger people.  

And multigenerational homes make it easier to provide healthcare and supervision to ageing family members, making it easier for both parents to work outside of the home to support their families, while their kids are looked after by others while they stay at home.

Multigenerational living quarters offer the chance to explore the oral history of families, where they came from, what their lives were like.  It allows families to exchange recipes that go back generations and learn family traditions or skills.  And it’s a way to encircle and embrace all those within your home to build a better and brighter future.