We live in times we never anticipated, and for many of us, the experience has not pleasant.
Multi-generational is the new norm for many families. College graduates are moving back home with parents as their job markets and earnings potential dwindle, and they struggle to pay off large student debt. Baby Boomers are accepting invitations from their children to share housing, as many Boomers saw their nest eggs shatter, their retirement plans delayed, and a need to continue or return to work after some absence.
According to research from the Pew Research Center and US Census Bureau statistics, over 20% of the American population lives today in multi-generational households, up from a 1980’s low of 12%. A 2016 survey by John Burns Real Estate Consulting revealed 44% of their sample field hoped to accommodate their aging parents, and 42% plan to accommodate their adult children. Many live in homes not designed for multi-generational living.
Several challenges present when several varying generations consider living under the same roof. The biggest being how to create independence for the generations while respecting and preserving the privacy and comfort of each other’s space.
Planning for Universal design is important in understanding the needs- current or future- for conditions such as inability navigating steps; private bathrooms and living areas; doors and hallways navigable for wheelchairs; grab bars and railings in showers, tubs, and changes in floor levels; and, shower and tub accessibility. Beyond Universal design, there is need for proper design to ensure the comfort and spatial components that create the freedom to enjoy personal privacy as needed.
The creation of multiple master retreats and private studios might include some minimal cooking facilities in each, even if just a small refrigerator and microwave, that will allow the occupants independence to satisfy basic needs without emerging into common areas if they wish to remain “at home.” Some areas will opportune to provide private egress, again permitting a feeling of independence.
Alone time is precious and personal. Recognizing and appreciating the needs and wishes of the other generations sharing the occupancy could develop a happy together, comfortable apart household.