Courtesy of Paradigm Building Group, LLC
Courtesy of Paradigm Building Group, LLC

Aging-in-place remodels are shaping up as a huge opportunity. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the over-65 population will swell from 47 million in 2015 to 71 million by 2030. The Census Bureau also reports an increase in households with at least two adult generations. Often, that requires modifying an existing home to serve the needs of aging relatives, while feeling comfortable and welcoming to all family members.

"These homes absolutely must be well designed," says Tim Winter of Paradigm Building Group in Fairfax, Va. Winter ensures this by partnering with an architect specializing in multigenerational design.

Courtesy of Paradigm Building Group, LLC
Courtesy of Paradigm Building Group, LLC

It's all about inclusiveness. "Seniors typically want to be a part of all family activities," according to Don Dryness of Main Street Custom Homes and Remodeling in Succasunna, NJ. Dryness, who specializes in multigenerational remodels. He suggests the following language to convey the flexibility and quality of life a multi-generational remodel can provide:

A welcome entry. The Zero-step entry is a staple of the multigenerational home, but it need not look like a ramp. Done right, a gently sloping walkway leading to the front door should blend seamlessly into the design.

Easy-open doors. Even young people appreciate lever handles when trying to open a door with an armful of stuff. Levers also make life easier for those with arthritis.

First-floor flex space. Seniors usually live on the ground floor, which may require adding a master suite. It needs a curbless shower and enough floor area for a wheelchair or walker. High-end finishes can make these features less noticeable. If the older relative won't be moving in for a few years, Dryness suggests configuring the room as an office, den or guest suite. If the floor plan permits, including doors from the den and the common area will make for a convenient guest bath.

Courtesy of Paradigm Building Group, LLC
Courtesy of Paradigm Building Group, LLC

Wide openings. Adding 36-inch wide doorways to the master suite, bath and other rooms will accommodate a wheelchair and will also make the home easier for everyone to navigate.

Visual contrast. Besides helping someone with weak vision, good color contrast between walls and floors can also make the interior more attractive. And it may only require a coat of paint.

Smooth, non-slip floors. Eliminating carpet makes it easier to operate a wheelchair, and minimizes airborne dust for the entire family. Non-slip tile in the shower is recommended.

Easy open windows. Everyone appreciates natural light. Large casements are easier to open than large double-hungs, and some models have grilles that mimic traditional double-hungs.

Courtesy of Paradigm Building Group, LLC
Courtesy of Paradigm Building Group, LLC

"All this is really just thoughtful universal design," says Dryness. And remodelers are headed in this direction; a full 83 percent of respondents to the National Association of Home Builders' 2016 Remodeling Market Index said that they include at least some universal design features in their projects.

The key is to be more deliberate about how you communicate it. There's no reason not to have a house that feels like home to everyone.

For design inspiration and window and door products that help builders create multigenerational homes, click here.