Multi-generational Homes

By: Janice Clements

Two weekends ago we were fortunate enough to celebrate a family member's 50th birthday.  Nothing makes you take notice of time passing like milestone birthdays. 

Having recently done the math on the age difference between my eldest nephew and my own mother, it's occurred to me that my mother became a grandmother at the ripe old age of 48, coincidentally the same age as I am now.

Suffice it to say that I'm nowhere near ready to become a grandmother (I hope), but what I am starting to prepare myself for is the notion that my husband, my siblings and I are quickly entering the ranks of the sandwich generation.

There are many challenges that we manage as homeowners, perhaps none more important than what Kira of Newmarket is navigating; she writes, "We are facing the potential that my mother will be moving in with us.  We still have teenagers living at home and we are anticipating issues with the changes to our living circumstances.  Do you have any suggestions on ways to make our home suitable for everyone?" 

The notion of a multi-generational home is not a new one.  Many families around the world wouldn't think of having it any other way.  But for some, the idea of moving several generations into one space creates a situation primed for stresses associated with the challenges of changing logistics and space planning.

Without seeing a plan of your home Kira, it's difficult for me to give you specific suggestions about your space but there are two options to create a home fit for a larger family; renovating within it’s current walls to re-allocate existing spaces or putting an addition onto the current structure. 

Before proceeding with planning either of these solutions, I suggest consulting experts to find out what the best options are for you and your family. 

A trusted local realtor can help you determine how changes and customizations to your home can affect its resale value.  If you're planning on staying in your home for 15+ years, I am a firm believer in making it your own, but you need to ensure that the changes you make will not significantly reduce the range of buyers who might be interested in purchasing the property in the future.   

Moreover, if you're pooling financial resources with your mother, you may want to consider if the larger pool of funds is better spent on a new home that can more appropriately accommodate your changing needs.

If you ultimately decide to stay put, you'll find it helpful to hire an architect or designer to assist in planning your renovation, regardless of whether you're considering an addition or are intending to renovate within the existing parameters of the structure.

An experienced design expert will help you navigate local by-laws regulating whether or not you can safely plan an addition on your home. They can help you determine how large the addition can be and may guide you in assessing whether or not you can or should apply for a variance should your plans not comply with local regulations.

Before you meet with your architect, designer or contractor, spend some time making a list of the changes and additions you think you need in your home in order to accommodate your mother and her belongings. 

Be sure to include your thoughts on the potential need for extra bathrooms, an additional kitchen, laundry room areas and easily accessible private entrances. 

If you have the space, it's always best to consider whether or not you need wider hallways or doorways, reduced or eliminated steps and grab bars in bathroom, tub and shower areas in case your family member is either unsure on their feet or disabled.  Consider proper lighting for aging eyes, redesigned storage cabinets and extra heating and air conditioning for previously unfinished spaces. 

Engaging the services of a local "seniors moving" professional can help make the often difficult and confusing transition out of your mother’s home and into yours an easier and less stressful one for all. 

The key to coming up with a good design suitable for all family members is to ensure to maintain privacy of some kind for each individual.  Every effort should be made to not isolate any one person while making decisions about spatial changes and consideration must be given to try to accommodate everyone’s functional needs. 

Regardless of the changes, maintaining a warm, welcoming home will help every member of your family learn to adjust to the new living arrangements.   



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