A real estate friend reached out as she is writing an article on intergenerational homes. Seeing I specialize in working with seniors and touch upon their housing needs she asked me these following questions, here are my answers:
—Do you find there is a lack of available housing for the aging?
I do not think there is a shortage of available housing. I think there is a shortage of adapted housing. Catch is is that for some reason humans take a long time to adapt and adjust to their new reality and needs. So if there was adapted housing no one would be flocking to it unless they faced a life changing event where a huge physical handicap occurred. .
– Are you finding people cannot afford decent places?
I do not know what a ‘decent’ place means, for you it means one thing and for someone else it means something else. In my experience, if the proper research is done before a move occurs where it is established what the person does do not like it will in turn help them to better understand what they do like. With the proper reserach done people usually settle into an environment that matches their needs. There will be some compromise but most wishes will be meet. So many factors come into play regarding this question that there is no straight answer as every situation and set up is very different. There are no cookie cutter solutions to this question.
-What do you think of intergenerational suites?
Intergenerational suites…..built by a contractor specifically for multi generational or built by a family to accommodate grandma? Two different things in my head. Let me explore the second option first. Throughout our lives we hang out with our peers. As we age our peers are usually found within communities that we build for ourselves, like an art course, a bingo hall, a walking group…..whatever our interests are is where we will find our peers. We need our peers as they have lived similar experiences, become our sounding boards for our concerns and help us work through situations in life.
A home converted to accommodate grandma sounds good. Who is grandma and what are her needs? Is she dependant? Is she autonomous? Is there a healthy relationship amongst the people living in the house? All these factors come into play. Seeing children surrounded by their grandparents and vice versa is a beautiful thing. Yes adult children living close to their parents and being an active role in each other’s lives is also a beautiful set-up. It does not work for everyone though. Some seniors whom have moved in with their children, or moved cross country to be close to their children, have told me that they are very lonely. They have lost their friends, they feel isolated, they feel like they are being used as a babysitter or a cook. Some family members whom have invited their elders to live with them have mentioned the stress on the family, the lack of knowledge on how to offer the proper care and/or support to a person in need. Should the desire be to create an intergenerational home my recommendations are to have an open conversation that never ends as every day is forever changing and adaptation needs to occur daily and regularly. Put everything on the table as to who is doing what, what the boundaries are, who is paying for what and what is expected of everyone livingng in that environment. Respect is needed on every level and by everyone for it to work in the best of fashions.
The former option. A developer/contractor building a building specifically for multi generational living, in my eyes, would have more success…simply because peers would be amongst peers. While children are at school and adults are at work, seniors would be amongst their peers and would be nourished by people around them. At dinner time everyone would have a story to share about their day.
We are all social beings. Social interaction is very important and should never be over looked at every age.
To sum it up, where ever we live we need to feel like we matter, that we are a part of a community, that we contribute but are not ‘used’ and that we are nourished by the people around us. No one should feel isolated or limited in accessibility to get out to play. At every age we should all strive be the best person we can be and our housing set up should help us facilitated that on a daily basis.