Last updated:December 01, 2012
Where will your parents live when they can no longer set up house independently? Though multiple generations have long lived together under one roof, that hasn't been the American way in recent history. But as more of the oldest live longer, some innovative new "granny flat" options are expanding the possibilities:
A built-in apartment
Close -- but not too close. That's the idea behind new construction that incorporates a separate apartment space complete with kitchen and bath. They often have both a private entrance and an entrance connecting the apartment to the main dwelling. The recession is also fueling a boom in these "Next Gen" houses, reports The New York Times.
Builders' other configurations include over-the-garage apartments (where stairs may be a problem for seniors) and large "flex rooms," with separate entrances and bathrooms, that can be used in multiple ways (such as for a relative or a home business). Zoning laws permitting these types of construction vary by community.
Added-on space under the same roof
Rather than buying new, some families are reconfiguring their existing homes. They're adding on extra rooms or entire apartment wings for aging relatives. Proceeds from the sale of the mover's home often pays for the renovation cost. This trend is fueling the growth of senior home remodelers, who have expertise in making existing home design safer for older adults.
A pod out back
A year ago, the first portable, high-tech "MedCottage" went up in a Chicago backyard. Since then, Virginia-based-builder N2Care has received about 1,000 inquiries every 90 days, it says. Along with heat and water, each 300-square-foot unit features special monitoring, safety, and communication technology. The catch: Zoning restrictions in many locations won't allow a separate residence on a lot.
Is the granny-pad trend an idea whose time has come? After all, as the NYT piece points out, more than 50 million Americans live in multigenerational households, up 10 percent in just the last five years. It may be a bit of deja vu for many baby boomers' folks, who grew up in multigenerational households before and just after World War II. Everything old is new again.