Mom and Dad are moving in
Illustration: Ellen Weinstein
Face it. Your folks will be spending their twilight years at your house, rather than Shady Pines. That's because the number of senior citizens—many of whom will rely on family members for their care—is expected to rise from 35 million in 2000 to over 71 million in 2030, according to a recent study by the Rosalynn Carter Institute and the University of Florida. But thanks to high-end finishes, better design, and a little creative planning, renovat­ing your residence for multigenerational living doesn't have to mean sacrificing on style. This Old House asked a panel of construction and real estate experts to recommend tweaks to some common home-im­prove­ment proj­ects that will ease the transition for the entire family. And depending on where you live—think senior-friendly Palm Springs—you may be able to re­coup most of the costs when it comes time to sell the house.

+ Remodel a bath Instead of a tub, opt for a wheel-in or walk-in shower with a height-adjustable showerhead, and choose grab bars finished in chrome, not institutional white. Add a taller toilet that complies with Americans with Disabilities Act spec­ifications, a new vanity, and stone flooring for a high-end makeover. This will put you back about $26,000, but about 90 percent of the cost will return to you should you sell.

+ Add a deck A wheelchair ramp is an eyesore at the entry, but built in conjunction with a new back deck it can work as a design element. Take it from architect and certified aging-in-place specialist Doug Walter, whose wood-composite ramp starts at the ground level and coils its way up and around the structure like a grand, sweeping staircase. A typical deck costs about $12,000 to build, but you'll get back about 90 percent of that investment if you sell.

+ Build an addition "On average, a master-suite addition is a good, solid investment," says Stephanie Singer at the National Association of Realtors. A first-floor bedroom that costs $73,000, for instance, will recoup about 80 percent of its cost. Doorways must be 36 inches or wider to be wheelchair accessible.

+ Renovate the kitchen Install deep pull-out drawers for pots and pans, pop-up platforms for heavy tabletop appliances, and cabinets under the counter rather than above it so nothing's out of reach. Use bin pulls instead of hard-to-grip knobs, and add extra task lighting. A high-end job, including new appliances and stone counters, can cost $80,000, but you'll get style to spare and about an 85 percent return.

+ Put in an elevator Doug Walter encourages families with multistory homes to install an electric lift. Not only is it an upgrade for the elderly, it's bound to provide a sigh of relief for anyone with a leg injury, small children, or even a vacuum cleaner to lug. Plus it's kinda fun to ride in.

*Renovation costs and returns are based on averages provided by the National Association of Realtors.
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