Multigenerational households are becoming more common than ever. Particularly in Northern California, where housing costs are rising and families face a growing need for housing solutions that can meet the needs of older family members. For homeowners who have the right kind of property, accessory dwelling units (ADU) are providing an affordable and empowering living solution for parents, grandparents, or other live-in relatives who have the need and desire to age in place.

Why ADUs are such a great option for aging-in-place.

Building a home addition or separate living quarters on your property offers a number of advantages both for you and your live-in relative. These benefits include:

1/ A balance of independence and closeness.

An ADU can be constructed to give an aging relative the chance to continue living independently with features such as a separate entrance, kitchen, bath, etc., while remaining close to family members who can offer assistance within seconds, if needed.

2/ Greater peace of mind.

With so many horror stories of neglect and abuse at elder care facilities, an ADU gives you the ability to oversee the care of your loved one directly, whatever the level of care they may need. Your loved one also has greater peace of mind knowing they are being watched over by someone who loves them.

3/ Significant savings on cost of care.

Many families choose to build an ADU as a more affordable alternative to the high costs of assisted living. The long-term savings can add up over time and be significant.

4/ Improved property value.

It never hurts to own a second home. ADUs add value to your property as a homeowner, which can benefit you down the road should you decide to sell—or provide increased flexibility for your family in the future.

Things you should consider for aging-in-place.

To accommodate the needs of your elderly family, an ADU should be designed with best practices and universal design taking your unique needs into account. The design should include accessibility considerations for your loved one’s specific needs, while still considering, conservatively, all of the different use cases the home will have in the future. ADUs are long-term investments, so it’s very important to design and build them that way.

  • Single-story construction with step-free entrance and flush thresholds (or, utilizing as few stairs as possible)
  • Wider doorways (at least 34”-36”) to accommodate wheelchairs or walkers
  • Curb-free, walk-in shower with integrated seat
  • Grab bars around toilet and shower
  • Pedestal sinks or open vanities (for easier wheelchair access)
  • Windows that open and close with minimal effort
  • Open floor plan for ease of maneuverability
  • Raised electrical outlets (18” or higher) to reduce the need to bend over
  • Lowered light switches that can be reached from a wheelchair
  • Non-slip flooring
  • And many more, tailored to your long-term, family housing plan.

Building an ADU is no small feat. Partnering with a team that has a deep working knowledge of universal design and accessibility, while also having the knowledge and expertise of designing long-term, family housing plans, is important.