Living alone can lead to loneliness, and not just during a pandemic. It can also be hard on the wallet, which is why many multigenerational families live together, sharing bills, meals, chores, and conversation. Families intending to combine generations under one roof should consider these measures:
- Establish protocols to address conflict, such as having a weekly family meeting.
- Create separate sleeping areas for different generations, or at least separate bedrooms. These zones offer a quiet place for work and private conversations.
- Design bathrooms to function for more than one person or generation. Many older people prefer a shower with zero-threshold entry, while a tub is best for young children. Is there room for both? A lower counter with a sink may be needed for anyone in a wheelchair. Construct a wall to enclose a toilet cubicle, if possible, so more than one person can use the bathroom at a time. Label shelves for each family member to keep toiletries and towels separate.
- If someone uses a walker or wheelchair, door openings may need to be widened. When bedrooms are on a different level from living space, adding a chair lift to a stairway may be necessary. Or, if space and budgets permit, consider adding an elevator.
- Designate one area as the “noisy” gathering hub. Label or color-code storage areas and make them accessible by each family member.
- Add technology such as a video door lock system so anyone can safely check who’s at the door.
- If possible, include a small, secondary kitchen near the bedroom or living quarters of a grandparent to provide a feeling of independence. A client of Maestri Studio in Dallas built an entire apartment inside a new house for an elderly family member.
Sources: Lisa M. Cini, Mosaic Design Studio; DeMure & Associates Architects; Maestri Studio.