Accommodating the Needs of a Multigenerational Household

By Kealia Reynolds

With the rise of multigenerational living (a household that includes two or more adult generations) some home builders have begun making specific accommodations for this lifestyle, but not all households with multiple generations will be looking to start from scratch with a new home. For multigenerational households that aren’t looking to buy or build a new house, there are changes that can be made to an existing space to make it work for everyone.

How to accommodate the needs of a multigenerational household

According to Jason Biddle, a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS), there are three factors to consider when creating a multigenerational home: space, privacy, and universal design.

1. Create more space for family members

Simply making room for all members of the household is step number one. Ensuring that all adults have the space they need to be autonomous is important for a smoothly running household.

“The home must have enough bedrooms and bathrooms, along with large enough communal spaces (living room, dining room, kitchen, yard [if applicable]) to accommodate everyone,” says Biddle. “If space is lacking, then homeowners could build an addition, convert a garage into a living space, or even build a guest apartment on the property.” Before building an additional living space on your property, check your city ordinances to make sure this is allowed.

2. Give everyone privacy

People need space for solitude, especially in a home with multiple adult generations. Ensuring that every member of the household has the space to achieve some privacy and separateness when they need it is key to keeping the peace.

“Pocket and french doors are great for creating privacy when needed while still promoting an openness (like when the pocket door is recessed and the french doors are open),” says Biddle. “So when it comes to privacy, rooms may need to be rearranged so that the private areas are separated from the shared spaces and doors may need to be added.”

When Mary Cook, founder of Chicago-based interior design firm, Mary Cook Associates, designs a home for multigenerational families, she considers the different lifestyle schedules. “There can be different work schedules, study schedules, and fitness schedules in a multigenerational home. We create common areas, where generations can come together, and perfect their private space to cater to each lifestyle schedule,” says Cook.

Pardee Homes, a planned community development organization, offers a GenSmart Suite that caters specifically to multigenerational families. The GenSmart Suite features an accommodating design with separate eating, living, and sleeping areas. This smart solution is designed to help multiple generations of a family comfortably navigate growth and change within a home and give family members the privacy they need.

According to Misty Weaver, realtor at the Dream Weaver Team, the easiest renovation to accommodate for privacy is the basement. “Most lots can handle this better than an addition, which often means changing the layout of the home, and can help families feel like they still have privacy,” says Weaver.

3. Make sure the home works for everyone

Designer Mary Cook always performs a needs assessment when adapting a house to fit multigenerational needs. “We think about who we are designing for and how they live. Once we can answer these questions, we can integrate their needs into the home,” says Cook. “For example, are there children in the home? We need to make sure the home is child-proofed. Is there a situation where someone is mobility-challenged? We can create a space that allows them to live assistance-free. There are many need-based situations where we can create solutions for a healthy multigenerational environment.”

Universal design, or the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, is necessary when you have family members who will age at home.

“Universal design promotes accessibility and functionality across a wide array of users, regardless of age or ability,” says Biddle. “For example, making a zero-step entry into the home provides access for those who may use a wheelchair as well as those who may use a baby stroller.”

According to Matthew Proctor, an expert at HomeLight, depending on the mobility of family members, you may have to consider changes to your home. “Namely, it’s recommended that doorways be at least 36 inches wide to easily accommodate a wheelchair or walker,” says Proctor, who also recommends working a Certified Aging in Place Specialist to help with these changes. Sometimes, these changes may be structural, so working with a contractor or building professional is a must.

Here are other ways you can outfit your home with universal design elements:

  • Replace conventional door knobs with lever handles
  • Add more general and task lighting for better visibility
  • Convert a combination tub/shower into a no-threshold, roll-in shower
  • Install ADA-compliant comfort-height toilets
  • Use kitchen appliances with controls that are easy to reach and operate

You can also see our guide on simple changes you can make for aging in place.

4. Keep the home in good working order

Similar to making sure the home works for everyone, it’s important that the home is also in good working order. If the HVAC doesn’t work or the washer and dryer are broken, it’s going to make it that much tougher for a multigenerational family to live under the same roof.

One solution is to consider a home warranty. Home warranties offer protection and repairs for systems and appliances for monthly fee. At House Method, we’ve done the research to find the cheapest home warranty companies as well as vet reputable brands. Read our Select Home Warranty review and First American Home Warranty review for more information.

Don't Stop Now


How to Create a Home Where a Family Can Thrive: An Interview with Kimberley Blaine

Fostering a healthy family begins at home. Here’s how marriage and family therapist Kimberley Blaine creates a home where a family can thrive.


Simple Changes to Make Your Home Safe for Aging in Place

Preparing your home to age in place doesn’t require extensive renovation. There are a number of small changes you can make to ensure you home is safe for yourself or family members who choose to age at home.


Staying Healthy in Your
Home as You Age

Adapting new habits to your current stage of life is both normal and healthy. Registered dietician and nutritionist Hayden James provides tips on staying healthy in your home as you age.


Why Home Sharing Is Necessary in America

Home sharing is the exchange of housing for mutual benefit in the home, allowing those on a low or fixed income to seek affordable housing while mutually agreeing to support the homeowner. Learn how home sharing works and why it’s so important in the current real estate climate.


9 Most Sought-After Home Improvements

When you’re getting ready to list your house, knowing what buyers are in the market for is key. We looked at data on new-construction single-family homes to give you a better idea of the most sought-after features for homes in the US today.

Costs and Coverage

Home Warranty Coverage – 2020 Plans and Pricing

Home warranty coverage varies depending on where you live, the type of coverage you opt into, and the home warranty company you buy from. Learn what a home warranty covers and how to choose the best policy.

By continuing to browse or by clicking “OK” you agree to the storing of first- and third-party cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. Privacy Policy.