All in the Family: Creating an In-Law Suite for an Older Generation

Give grandma and grandpa a space they’ll enjoy in their golden years.

By Kelly O’Roark

 

Since more and more multigenerational households are accommodating grandparents, designing an in-law suite has become an essential part of the home building and home buying process. It’s important to choose a design that will accommodate their needs and give them the comfort and privacy that they desire, and also caters to their age demographic since there are often physical limitations that may require a special set-up.

 

view

 

Ensuring that your elderly family members are not only comfortable and happy, but also safe, is a vital factor when it comes to planning their living space. Here are three pivotal aspects when designing an in-law suite.

 

1. A Bedroom/Multipurpose Room

It’s important to create a space that is not only large enough for their bed, but also provides other home elements that they used to have when they lived on their own. 

 

view

 

Here are four ways to make grandma’s suite feel less like a boring bedroom and more like an amazing apartment:

 

A bed that takes center stage

It’s best to put the bed in the middle of the room so that there is plenty of space to get in and out on either side without the risk of tripping or bumping into furniture and walls. 

 

view

 

It also sets the tone of the room, as it’s a place to not only sleep, but can also be used as a place to sit or even lay and watch a movie, especially when the grandkids want to come and hang out with them.

 

A sitting area

Since grandpa still loves to read the newspaper in print (“iPads don’t make any sense,” he says.) it’s important to set up a reading corner with good lighting and a reclining chair so that they can read and also watch TV comfortably.

 

view

 

It’s also important to have a folding table for activities, like card games and puzzles (especially since grandma loves the challenge of putting together a thousand tiny pieces)!

 

view

 

A desk

While writing letters and cards seems to be a lost art these days, your sweet grandparents still enjoy writing, and occasionally playing a game of Solitaire on their desktop computer. 

 

view

 

Setting up a desk not only gives them a creative outlet for those things, but also gives them a designated space of their own to write checks, pay bills, and store their important documents.

 

A television with a small entertainment center

Having their own television to watch their favorite shows and movies is an essential part of their suite. (They don’t know who Zac Efron is, but if there’s a Carey Grant movie on the TV guide, they’re down!) Implementing a television completes the feeling of having their own living area instead of just a bedroom.

 

view

 

They can also put their CD player, book collection, and pictures on display as well so that they’re easily accessible.

 

2. A Walk-In Closet

The second design element is a walk-in closet. When designing an in-law suite, it’s important to remember that small, tight spaces aren’t conducive to family members who aren’t always steady on their feet due to gait and imbalance issues. 

 

A cramped closet where many items are hidden from view means that your elderly loved ones have to do a lot of reaching, stooping, and lifting to get things out, and that means a higher risk of injury.

 

view

 

Having a closet with plenty of shelving means that they can easily access their clothing and shoes, and use it as a dressing room. A large closet is also the perfect place for storing other items such as picture albums, games, and extra bedding.

 

3. A Functional Bathroom

Last but not least, it’s important to have a bathroom that has enough room to move around easily and flows in a relatively straight line. (If a walker is needed, it’s hard to turn corners.) It’s ideal to have a vanity with a fair amount of counter space, as well as a spacious linen closet so that they don’t have to bend down and reach underneath the sink every day to get towels or medications.

 

view

 

It’s also important to have a bathtub built into the shower if standing creates a falling risk, and to also have a handle on the side to grab onto when getting in and out of the shower. 

 

view

 

Since the bathroom is the most likely place to slip, if possible, it’s also good to have an alarm next to the shower (with a string that reaches the floor as pictured on the left), so that if a fall should happen a family member can be notified immediately. Remember that safety should be a cohesive theme throughout an elderly in-law suite!

 

view

 

Setting up an elderly-friendly in-law suite for your nearest and dearest who are up in years is a perfect way to thank them for all they’re done for you and your family. Not only will you find joy in having your loved ones in your home, you’ll also have peace of mind that they’re safe and still have some level of independence, which is the best gift that you can give them.

 

view

 

What are some additional design aspects that you feel are vital for an in-law suite that’s specifically tailored for elderly loved ones? Please feel free to share your thoughts below!

 

Images used with permission, courtesy of Kelly O'Roark

Next: Guest Bedrooms as Work Spaces