Valerie Hall of Odum, Ga., has a house that's really for everybody. Her 98-year-old grandmother Gertrude and her 70-year-old mother, Beverly, don't simply share the same house — they now live in the same room with Valerie, her husband, Beau, and their teenage son, Charles.
Gertrude and Beverly sleep on one side of the bookcase. Valerie and Beau sleep on the floor, other side. Charles sleeps in the garage.
Suffice it to say this was not the living arrangement Valerie and Beau, the local veterinarian, dreamed of. They own their clinic and live on a 23-acre farm. But mold made their house unliveable. So, for now, everyone is squeezed into a space originally designed for grandma.
"I don't have any problem," Gertrude jokes about the arrangements. "They just wait on me hand and foot."
Adds Beverly, "We think this is a good thing, and we hope it's a trend — less nursing home and more in-home care."
Building for baby boomers and their parents is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the housing industry, says Vince Butler of the National Association of Home Builders. It's called "aging in place." The association even sponsors classes that include sensitivity training for builders, who must meet the needs of an aging population.
"It's definitely the direction we're going," Butler says. "There's already a demand. What they were really searching for were the products, the solutions, the design ideas that we have to offer."
Some of those design ideas include: Removing stairs at the home's entrance; widening doors to at least 36 inches to accommodate wheelchairs; replacing door knobs with easier-to-use levers; designing light sockets with more than one bulb, so that if one goes out there's still light; and, for the more ambitious, stacking closets on two floors that could someday be converted to an elevator.
The Halls will make some of those modifications when they rebuild their house.
"We want to build a house that we want to be able to function in in 25 years," Beau says.
Valerie was recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, so someday, the caretaker will need taking care of.
But where some families see burdens, the Halls see blessings.
"There aren't too many families that get the chance to be together during the later stages of the grandparent or great-grandparent's life," Beau says.
One family, aging together ... in one place.