Having your parents move in with you may at first bring memories of your teenage years, but the change in lifestyle can be incredibly rewarding. In what can feel like an increasingly disconnected world, having a parent at home can bring unforseen advantages.
The 2016 Census confirmed that Australia’s population is an ageing one. One in six Australians are over 65, with this figure having increased 14 per cent since 2011.
With an ageing population comes the risk of a large proportion of Australians living alone. The census revealed that this is even more prevalent for older women, who are much more likely to live alone than older men, at nearly a third compared to one in five older men. With only 7.7 per cent of older Australians living with their children, there is an opportunity for younger Australians to reduce both the health risks (mental and physical) and financial concerns of those they love.
There are clear benefits to living with your parents again, especially if you have young children, but the shift can be made easier by being properly prepared for when your parents move into your home.
Getting your home ready for parents
The way and extent to which you prepare your home depends on the age and needs of your parent/s. The move may simply be financial, and your parents may need little in the way of changing your home. If they have health concerns the changes you make will of course depend on their specific needs, but there are some common ways to prepare your home that can make the transition in lifestyle a little smoother.
An older member of the family is going to use the home in a different way to a teenager. Consider the following small changes.
Proximity to bathroom – shift the bedrooms around so that your parent/s have easy access to the bathroom. Ensuites are ideal as they provide the most privacy as well as accessibility. Rails are often a necessary feature in the bathroom and in other areas of the home; be sure to install them correctly so that they do not fail and lead to injuries.
Entry and exits – one of the easiest changes to make in your home is mitigating the risks of a fall by installing ramps and handrails in areas with steps.
Decluttered and open spaces – just as there are ways to design kitchens for optimum work flow, there are ways to make sure older members of the household can access a space efficiently. Open plan designs reduce the risks of falls, with strategically placed furniture providing islands of stability and rest for those with mobility concerns.
Increased lighting – sadly, there is little that can be done for our ageing vision. Create easier access to good lighting options, both artificial and natural, to aid in both the mobility and usability of the home. The positioning of light switches may not seem an obvious concern for many, but in certain situations more easily accessible switches can make a huge difference to some (e.g. those with poor eyesight or mobility issues).
Easily accessible cupboards – the positioning of cupboards is often forgotten when preparing the home for an elderly parent. This may require a larger financial outlay, but may be necessary in situations where a parent is healthy enough to be independent but have minor mobility issues.
Options for privacy – separate living areas, such as granny flats, can be a great way to provide privacy to parents living in your home, while making it easy to keep the family together and monitor any health concerns. Finding a balance between enjoying one another’s company and a parent feeling overly ‘monitored’ for any signs of a change in health is difficult. A parent moving in with you can create negative feelings, such as guilt or anger, for either party, and the fear of feeling like a patient in their own home is common for anybody as they think about their future. Opportunities for privacy can help create an element of independence even for those with real dependencies on their children.
Sharing the workload – if your parent/s are physically able to maintain aspects of the property, make sure you give them that opportunity. Creating opportunities for parents to contribute to the management of the home can be a great way to maintain healthy relationships.
Hazard avoidance – for those with children, having grandparents living in the home can be a fantastic advantage. However, be prepared to organise spaces where kids can play with and leave their toys so that there is no risk of an older member of the home tripping.
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