Planning for Multi-Generational Living

Multi-Generatonal families living together are more the norm these days. When looking for a home to share with older family members, consider that while they may be mobile now, they may soon need assistance to maintain balance, negotiate stairs, may need a wheelchair or walker, or may need safety features to enter or exit a bath. If you mention the possibility of older family members living with you or for extended visits with your real estate agent this is a significant part of finding the right home to accommodate your family plans.

Here’s a list for Planning for Multi-Generational Living:

  1. In addition to entry doors, doorways to bedrooms, bathrooms and all family rooms need to be at least 32 inches wide to accommodate walkers and wheelchairs, and 36 inches wide if the chair needs to turn to enter or exit the room. If the door’s maximum opening is 90 degrees (i.e. against a wall), be sure to use the larger door size.
  2. At least one external entry door should include (or be possible to add) a threshold ramp, and be accessible without stairs. Even entryways with shallow steps should be capable of accommodating a wheelchair ramp if the need arises.
  3. Hallways should be at least 42 inches wide to accommodate either a wheelchair or a walker. Perhaps handrails might be needed and should not detract from the width requirement.
  4. Look for a home with at least one bedroom on the ground floor. Adding elevators and stairlifts are possibilities, but these can be expensive and significantly take up valuable stairway width.
  5. Bathroom modifications can be expensive, so first, look for a home with a walk-in shower to simplify the bathing process. If a walk-in shower is not available, consider remodeling one bathroom to include a walk-in bath. There are amazing innovation in newer shower or tub configurations. Whatever the design, you want to make sure you have the space needed.
  6. The bathroom should accommodate a comfort height or ADA compliant toilet, along with a grab bar, to insure your family member can sit and stand with ease.
  7. Consider electrical needs of an older relative. Easy access to power outlets for personal and medical devices, and easy to operate light switches are important considerations. Extension cords and trailing electrical cords are trip hazards, so the rooms they occupy need plenty of installed outlets at accessible heights. Have an electrician add an outlet above the nightstand, or consider getting a lamp with built-in outlets. Some night tables have built in outlets.
  8. Pay attention to faucet, door, and cabinet knobs. Hard to operate knobs on lavatories and bath/shower stalls should be replaced with single handle or touchless options. Replace round doorknobs with lever-style knobs, and change out friction pull cabinet closers for soft-close or magnetic ones.

Property owners may need financial help to remodel or update their homes to accommodate the handicapped and elderly. Grants funded by several government agencies may cover the construction and renovation costs, including labor and administrative expenses. They may cover purchases of equipment and supplies necessary to make your home accessible for loved members of the family who have given so much of themselves to the family for years.

Most of all, be sure to inform your realtor about your family needs from the beginning of your home search. Your agent can focus on homes that can best fit Planning for Multi-Generational Living.

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