Whether you call it creating an in-law addition, or making extra room for your aging parents, a building wave has occurred in the last 15 years to accommodate older family members in their children's existing homes. A common practice in European and Asian households, more North Americans are coming to realize this is a practical set-up for many reasons – financial (for both sides), companionship for the older family member, and an opportunity for grandchildren to get to know their elders.
Millions of families across the country are having their parents and in-laws move in with them rather than pay for expensive retirement residences. This may mean changes as simple as redecorating a long-gone teenager's room, or building a complete addition to the house. Many new building plans have included the option of an in-law suite, often on the first floor to avoid stairs. These are not basement suites, but rather a separate, private area off the main living quarters for parents with a sitting room, large bedroom and a full bathroom. Some even have separate entrances, allowing complete freedom and minimizing disturbances to the other family members.
Accessibility within the suite is also an important factor to consider. Grab bars in the bathrooms and wider doors to accommodate walkers or wheelchairs are easy changes, and can be done subtly to avoid making the room look like a nursing home.
Another term commonly used for separate in-law accommodation is a Granny Flat. These are usually small, separate residences built on existing family property, and are set up as a complete living space including a small kitchen. Far enough away from the main house for the parents to get a true feeling of being in their own home, these units are close enough to family members for help in case of emergencies.
The average cost of living in a retirement residence can be upwards of $75,000 per year. Families who may have to subsidize their parents' need for some assisted living may want to consider putting that money into renovating their own home, and join the growing segment of society that is opting into this multi-generation living lifestyle.
An additional benefit for creating an in-law suite is the increased value of your property. If it is not time for a parent to join your household, there are several other uses for a completely contained suite. Young families may initially use it for a live-in nanny, or it may be a deluxe guest suite for out-of-town friends or family. It may even be used for college-age children who want their own space for privacy and studying.
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