One home, two families: living in an intergenerational home

October 29, 2014

An intergenerational home is a great solution to the challenges of housing and caring for ageing parents or in-laws. Not only does living in an intergenerational home save on mortgages and costs for institutional care, but it also helps fulfil the security and emotional needs of the elderly.

It affords them personal attention from their family while retaining a certain degree of independence. For adults, intergenerational homes are a way of caring for ageing parents while still maintaining a normal work routine and personal life.

One home, two families: living in an intergenerational home

Requirements for an intergenerational home

Having an intergenerational home is not as simple as putting up partitions or building a duplex-style dwelling. Canadians must seek a permit and approval from their municipality before converting a single-family house into an intergenerational home, as zoning laws require such homes to conform to community design, look like single-family houses from the outside and have the same address.

While there's no national subsidy program for seniors and their family for the purchase of an intergenerational home, Canadian provinces may have specific funding assistance available for renovating homes into an intergenerational house, such as the Renovation Québec program.

Permit fees vary based on the local by-laws of each province, while approval is primarily based on the conformity to design and building layout. Intergenerational homes have specific design guidelines, particularly for the living space that's intended for the elderly. These include:

  1. An interior layout that enables elderly persons with mobility problems to move easily in and around the house.
  2. Entrance and exit halls with grips.
  3. Windows, shelves, cupboards and electrical outlets installed at a practical height.
  4. Noise-proofing between the walls of the two separate dwellings.
  5. A slip-free kitchen and bathroom, and installation of safety floor coverings for the elderly's unit.

Making intergenerational home living harmonious for everyone

With the growing number of senior citizens and the rising cost of housing and healthcare services, many Canadian families are opting to live in intergenerational homes. Just remember that as with any other shared living arrangement, the elderly and their children should agree on some rules to make their intergenerational home not only a convenient arrangement, but also a partnership between the two parties.

First, settle how you will share in household expenses like electricity, utilities and food. Discuss money matters with tact. For instance, will groceries be purchased separately? Will sub-metres be installed to track electricity use between the two dwellings? Arrive at an agreement so that the two parties can help each other when it comes to bill payment.

Second, assign everyone daily tasks such as cooking, shopping, gardening or walking the dog. Seniors will appreciate being given some of the family responsibilities, including having some everyday tasks to perform.

Finally, while distinct living space is at the core of an intergenerational home, don't forget to create common spaces that will encourage bonding time and cooperation.

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