In a growing trend among American families, a record 64 million people — or one in five Americans — now lives with multiple generations under one roof, according to a Pew Research Center analysis.
And it makes sense. As the Boomer population ages, many of their adult kids want their parents to age comfortably and spend time with grandkids. But having mom or dad move in may require some retrofitting or remodeling to help make the transition easier.
“Determining what home improvements you have to do really depends on your budget, the physical mobility of your parents and the condition of your house,” says Steve Hoffacker, a certified aging-in-place specialist. Below are some common home remodeling projects to consider.
1. THE IN-LAW SUITE
Your parent is going to want some privacy and separation. One way to provide it is through an in-law suite — a separate area with a bedroom and bathroom. (In-law suites are also referred to as accessory dwelling units, mother-in-law suites, secondary suites or granny flats.)
Ideally, Hoffacker says, you’ll build the in-law suite on the first floor of your house so that parents don’t have to climb or walk down a flight of stairs to get to their living quarters. Depending on where in your home you’re building the suite, and whether you're starting construction from scratch or converting an existing area, expect a pricey renovation — anywhere from $40,000 to $125,000, by some estimates.
2. RAMPS AND HANDRAILS
If your parents have mobility issues, you’ll have to make it easier and safer for them to enter the home. Some aging parents will require a modular ramp or wheelchair ramp that provides a no-step entry; others may only need handrails to get to the front door.
A professionally built wheelchair ramp may cost somewhere between $939 and $2,853, with the average cost exceeding $1,800, according to HomeAdvisor. A stairway handrail costs, on average, between $701 and $1,081, Homewyse says, but costs may be higher depending on the material. (Stainless-steel railings, for instance, are typically more expensive than wood, which also requires more maintenance).
3. GRAB BARS
Adding grab bars in select areas — including bathrooms, staircases and hallways— can reduce your parent's risk of falls, Hoffacker says. Having three grab bars professionally installed costs an average of $140, according to Fixr.com data. In bathrooms, Hoffacker recommends installing a 12- to 15-inch vertical grab bar located near the entrance to the shower.
4. HANDHELD SHOWERHEAD
Installing a handheld showerhead is a small but important upgrade, Hoffacker says, because it can significantly reduce a parent’s risk of falling while showering. “An easy on-off switch on the head is important,” Hoffacker says. “When installing it, make sure it’s easily accessible. You shouldn’t have to stand up to unlatch the shower head, because that can make you lose your balance. The shower head should be at eye level.”
Handheld showerheads with sliding bars generally cost between $50 and $200. You may also want to install a seat or bench in the shower.
5. WALK-IN SHOWER
Does mom or dad have trouble climbing in and out of a bathtub? A walk-in shower — also called a barrier-free shower or zero-step shower — can help prevent them from falling, Hoffacker says. The caveat? It can be an expensive upgrade. According to HomeAdvisor, homeowners can expect to pay anywhere from $750 to $6,850 for a professionally installed walk-in shower, depending on the size and features.
6. HOBBY ROOM
“Hobby room” isn't a technical term, but Hoffacker recommends building or redesigning a room tailored to a parent’s pastimes to help keep them active and healthy. For instance, if your mom loves crafting or art, consider converting a spare room in the house into a workroom or studio. Or maybe your dad is a music lover and would appreciate a place where he can play and store his instruments. Prices will vary, but the key here is to allow your parent space to pursue their passions — and perhaps even pass down a new skill to the grandkids.