It’s not strange to have a relative move in with you these days. From millennials facing many of the hurdles that come with starting life in the modern world to parents who are facing the ever-rising costs of assisted living, there are many different reasons for more than a couple of generations to find themselves gathered together under one roof.
This can naturally lead to a number of challenges, as each stage of life typically incorporates different elements within a living space. Things like privacy and accessibility are some of the key factors that can cause friction between occupants of vastly different ages cohabitating within a single home. Here are some suggestions for how to create a multigenerational space that takes everyone into account.
Before we get to how to address the space itself, let’s take a moment to understand why so many extended families are opting to cohabitate. Here are a few of the most poignant challenges that are driving more and more families to band together within the same living spaces in an attempt to curb some of the issues that they face.
Higher Costs of Living
The everyday costs of life have always been a factor that must be taken into consideration. However, the current uptick in the cost of living has been more pronounced than usual, with the rate increasing at a faster pace than has been seen in a decade. When everything in life costs more (including your housing costs) it can be difficult to pay rent, let alone take on the often hefty expense of home ownership.
While the costs of living life have continued to rise, the funds that the average employee has available to meet them has gone in the opposite direction. With wages recently dipping to a point lower than they were three decades ago (after being adjusted for inflation), it’s no wonder the pressures of home ownership are proving too large of a burden for a single nuclear family to bear.
While many nursing homes can certainly be peaceful havens, they aren’t simply a panacea for the many challenges that can come with age. In fact, living in a nursing home can not only be expensive, it can also open a person up to a variety of different abuses. From more subtle problems like neglect to more directly nefarious issues like verbal, financial, or even physical abuse, nursing homes are not an automatic choice for every family.
Retrofitting Your Living Space
While things like the rising cost of living and stagnant wages are pushing multigenerational families into the same living spaces for the long-haul, that doesn’t mean it’s time to throw up our collective hands in despair and just accept the hand that fate has dealt us. There are many different ways to embrace the shift in lifestyle while still simultaneously maintaining the positive, thoughtful attitude that turns a cold living space into a warm, welcoming home.
If you’re preparing a space to be shared with a parent or older loved one, it can be helpful to go through the space that they’ll utilize with their specific needs in mind. Can they easily move around the house from room to room? Are there any loose rugs that could cause them to trip? Is everything that is used on a regular basis easily within reach? We’re talking about things like tissues, dishware, food, etc. Can they access the tables and countertops? What about the bathroom door, shower, toilet, and sink? Also, with the potential to have very young children as well as seniors residing in your home, it’s important to remember dangers like open outlets, stairs, and even the health threat of things like asbestos and mold.
Once you’ve taken stock of the situation, it’s time to make some changes. Some of these can be quick and simple while others can be a bit more involved. The former can come in the form of grab bars near toilets or showers, door levers in lieu of nobs, removing rugs and tripping hazards, or rearranging rooms for easy wheelchair or walker accessibility.
Some repairs can take a little bit more investment. For example, adding a wheelchair ramp, lowering the counter height, or widening doorways can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. However, each of these changes can be made individually as the budget allows.
Another consideration that is much less expensive is rearranging what each room is used for. If possible, set up a single, larger room as a functional living room/dining room area that can serve as a hub of the household’s activities. Also, try to make your main floor a fully functional house without access to the upstairs or basement being necessary.
The Issue of Privacy
While making your arrangements, remember that privacy matters for everyone involved. From millennials moving in with infants in tow to seniors who have wheelchairs or other constraints, it’s important to keep in mind that everyone is sharing the same space. If you want to create harmony, make sure to maximize everyone’s ability to maintain as much privacy as possible when they require it.
Form Versus Function
Finally, remember that you don’t have to sacrifice everything for the sake of functionality. In fact, there are many ways to keep your living space stylish while still addressing the needs of all of the occupants within it. Additionally, it is still worth the effort to remain economically friendly while going about making the necessary changes to your abode. From widening driveways to choosing a new handle for the bathroom and everything in between, it’s completely feasible to make sustainable choices that still make your home both accessible and functional as well.
The most important thing to remember through all of the changes is that you’re creating a living space that is thoughtful towards everyone involved. Rather than accepting a victim mentality when it comes to cohabitating, it can be helpful to embrace the change and do your best to accommodate everyone from the toddlers to the seniors as you all prepare to embrace the hopes, joys, and trials of life all while living under the same roof.
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