Your kids have graduated from college and the last of the boomerangs have found a job and finally moved into an apartment of their own. After the celebration is over, you may contemplate a radical downsizing so that none of your children will attempt to reenter the womb again. But is this the smartest reaction?
With more children of Baby Boomers coming of age every year there are more and more people looking to trade in their larger family homes for more modest accommodations after the kids are gone. Downsizing may be in order, but the key is to be smart.
Smart downsizing is more than just purging your household of adult children, extra bedrooms, bathrooms, recreation rooms, and the accumulation that comes with 20 to 30 years of child rearing. That is part of it, but planning for a future that includes the lives of extended family members is the ‘smart’ part of downsizing.
The reality of parents raising children and then experiencing a long term empty nest is fading for many Americans. Today’s parents of adult children have to face the real possibility that their children may return home to live, bringing with them grandchildren. According to Pew Research Center, one in ten children in the United States lives with a grandparent.
Not only are more Americans experiencing households that include their grandchildren, an increasing number of elderly parents are living with their children. In 2007 more than 3.6 million parents lived with their adult children and this trend is increasing.
For many Americans, the empty nest is short lived and often fills with adult children, grandchildren, and elderly parents. The downsized home may now prove to be too small. So how do you downsize in a way that allows for the possibilities that family may become permanent fixtures in your home? Flexibility is the key. When looking at the possibility of elderly parents moving in, take into account the following considerations:
-A main level multi-purpose room that can be used as a bedroom will allow you to provide for an elderly parent without having to make expensive changes to your home in the future.
-Wide hallways and doors will improve accessibility.
-For multi-level homes, plan stacked closets that are framed with removable floors to allow for a future elevator.
-Finishing an apartment over a garage can allow independence with close access to care.
It is easier to deal with adult children and grandchildren moving in, but it is important to consider providing space that will give a sense of independence. Finishing a basement into a stand alone apartment can provide a living experience that is financially beneficial for returning children and give them the independence they need.
Perhaps your only downsizing concern is to provide for when your children and their families come for a visit. Smart downsizing also comes into play here. Consider a bunkhouse over the garage for grandchildren. It is a great opportunity for cousins to bond and reduces the amount of noise for the rest of the family.
Whether you are building new, buying, or staying put and renovating, take a long term view of your needs. As your parents age or children begin to have families of their own, some level of stress is associated with staying under one roof again. But with a little planning, you can help to minimize the stress and enhance the joy being together.