The “sandwich generation” isn’t just a media catchphrase. Plenty of people are caught between the needs of their children and their aging parents. While some parents may be unable to live on their own, it is perfectly natural that most want to maintain their independence. The solution for some is to have mom or dad move into the family home, which, unlike a nursing home or assisted living, allows children and grandchildren to remain a part of their lives and deepen their connection through daily contact. In many cases, an aging loved one can provide the best possible babysitting, enriching their grandchildren’s lives immeasurably. In the Detroit area, there are many options for welcoming mom or dad into your home.

Whichever options you choose, here are some pointers to make the process go smoothly:

  • The parent should be involved in the process. Ask him or her what they want in a space, what colors they like, what they like to do. This will go a long way toward making him or her feel welcome and avoiding conflicts later.
  • Additions and converted spaces should be at the ground level if at all possible. Even if the parent is currently mobile, that might not always be the case.
  • Try to anticipate what accommodations your elder loved one might need in the future. This may include wheelchair accessibility, grab bars for the toilet and shower, lifts for stairways, adjustable-height beds, and larger handles or levers for faucets and doorknobs.
  • Consult your municipality’s zoning ordinances and secure any permits that may be necessary for a remodel, addition, or free-standing outbuilding like an ADU.

Repurposing an existing room
The quickest and least expensive option is to repurpose an existing room in your home, usually a spare bedroom. Relocate any items in the room, repaint it, add some welcoming decorative touches such as art pieces and window treatments. Move the parent’s furniture and favorite things in. Many homeowners will opt for painting the room themselves, but finding a painting company to do the job will take the stress out of the redecoration.

Home additions
If you have extra space in your basement or garage that you won’t need for storage, you can wall-off part of a basement or garage to create a bedroom. This is a job that’s best left to professionals like those at Multi Drywall and Partition LLC in Walled Lake, Michigan. Another option is to build an addition onto your home to create an in-law suite or “granny flat.” These can range in size and complexity from a bedroom and bathroom to a combo bedroom, bathroom, and sitting room to an entire small apartment with its own entrance, depending on the budget, health, and mobility of the aging parent. The add-ons preserve independence for mom or dad and provide peace of mind and convenience for the family. These additions are growing so rapidly in popularity that AARP and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) collaborated on a set of standards, which, if met, certify a builder or contractor as a Certified Aging In Place Specialist (CAPS). For a list of CAPS in Michigan, consult the listing on the NAHB site.

On site units
Pre-fabricated accessory dwelling units (ADUs), also known as “in-law cottages” or “granny pods,” are freestanding buildings put up on a home’s backyard. They are delivered to a site from the manufacturer fully assembled, set onto a foundation, and hooked up to the existing main dwelling utilities. ADUs can be leased or purchased and range in square footage from 300 to 1,800 and up. They can include all manners of senior-friendly features such as wheelchair-friendly ramps and hallways, universal-design kitchens, security devices such as heart monitors and ankle-level cameras, devices to remind the resident to take his or her medications, and hospital-style beds and lifts.

Paula Guthat is a freelance writer and a Detroit native. Her work can be found at


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Watch & Listen LIVE