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Is multigenerational living good for our wellbeing?

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Smarter and better spaces for all

According to 2018 figures from AMA Research, multigenerational households have increased by 42% over the past decade, and the ONS estimates there are currently 1.8 million multigenerational households now in the UK.

Considering this rise, coupled with the fact that properties are getting smaller1, how do we design and build homes that are smarter, more adaptable and accessible, as well as more comfortable places to live?

Is multigenerational living good for our wellbeing?

For some, the thought of a busy home with lots of people and sharing a space with certain family members is a big no-no, bringing feelings of stress and anxiety. Yet for others, it can be a great solution to practical, social or financial challenges.

But there’s also evidence that multi-generational living can actually have a positive impact on our wellbeing and as such, is becoming the preferred choice for many families.

According to a 2017 report by SSM Popul Health, “multi-generational living arrangements can, in theory, increase psychological, social, and financial capital - factors associated with improvements in health and longevity.” The research found that there were improved structural ties and an improved survival rate as a result of people living together.

When families come together, there can be real benefits to our wellbeing and mental health, removing feelings of loneliness and isolation, yet to achieve these potential benefits needs planning and consideration.

How to make homes suitable for multigenerational living

To this end, forward-thinking housebuilders, architects and specifiers are now designing homes that have a greater recognition of each person’s and each generation’s wants and needs. What’s more, they are also tuning in to the changing nature of these needs, with a need for solutions that don’t just work ‘for now’ but allow a family to evolve how they live day-to-day. But this approach isn’t widespread.

The importance of accessibility

One area that requires greater consideration in a multigenerational household is accessibility. With experts predicting that the number of UK households headed by someone over the age of 65 will increase by 54 per cent by 2041, more homes may need to accommodate an ageing population with greater physical challenges.

Kitchens and bathrooms are two rooms in particular where accessibility is essential and must have more of a priority within housebuilding and design.

Traditionally, products that aid accessible living – either for those of older age or those with a disability – have been seen as a bolt-on; an afterthought to add to an existing space, with little aesthetic appeal.

Yet many manufacturers are now creating accessible living ranges that turn this outdated notion on its head. These products and services are designed to help those building the homes of the future to have greater access to the different components required to achieve spaces that are suitable for several generations living under one roof.
Leading manufacturers also support designers and specifiers in thinking cleverly about these products so they work together seamlessly and look stylish too.

When it comes to kitchens for example, layout, fixtures and fittings need to be considered so it is practical, safe and comfortable for all users – whether they are in a wheelchair, struggle to reach over worktops, or have deteriorating eyesight.

Hidden storage, such as concealed corner cabinets that rise at the touch of a button, give a kitchen the edge, make most efficient use of space and remove any navigational challenges for those in wheelchairs.

When every inch matters, handle-free cupboard door profiles remove the need for protruding accessories on cabinetry, while J-Pull doors – which are a sleek addition to an accessible kitchen – make it easier for wheelchair users to open their cupboards and drawers from a variety of angles.

Linear-style induction hobs – where pans are placed in a row, rather than in a group – are another option to consider. They not only look modern and save on unit space but are ideal for accessible kitchens as wheelchair users or people with mobility issues don’t have to lean over one hot pan to reach another.

Flexible and adaptive

Alongside accessibility, multigenerational homes need to be flexible too, allowing for the evolving needs of families and providing clever ways to create separate living spaces as needed.

Sliding pocket doors are a great way of doing this. Concealed within existing walls – and therefore saving space compared to swing doors or exposed sliding solutions – they allow a user to easily create larger, open plan areas for family occasions and socialising, before breaking up spaces to allow different generations to achieve privacy and a space to call their own.

What’s also great about these products, especially in smaller homes, is their ability to maximise space. As the doors don’t open into a room, you can save an average of 1270mm of operating space per door.

As people live longer and economic circumstances mean young people are getting on the property later, it’s likely the rise in multigenerational will only continue. As this happens, it’s key that housebuilders, designers and developers explore ways to make homes work for these new family units, making homes flexible and truly reflective of current and future needs.

Interested in finding out more about how space in our homes can help our wellbeing? Read this article on whether a bigger home can make us happier.

1 Compared to the previous decade, homes built from 2010 onwards are over 4m2 smaller (according to LABC)

Disclaimer: The sole responsibility for any views expressed lies with the author(s). Any opinions shared do not necessarily represent the views of Saint-Gobain.

Natalie Davenport
Natalie Davenport Head of Marketing, Häfele UK
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