Each year, the International Federation of Interior Architects/Designers holds a World Interiors Day (IFI WID) event as an opportunity for designers and design enthusiasts to unite around a theme selected by members around the world.

The theme for this year’s event, recognized on May 25, 2024, is “The Growing Generational Gap: Improved Multi-Generational Future.” It points to communication gaps between different age groups and design as a tool for inclusive solutions. 

The IFI believes that, through sensitive and adaptable design, we can create environments that celebrate generational diversity, building bridges between past, present and future.

At JELD-WEN of Canada, we agree that effective use of design elements, including windows and doors, can help to promote meaningful communication between generations and create more inclusive living spaces.

Multi-generational living is on the rise

Multi-generational households are those that include two or more adult generations, most often grandparents, parents and children, living in the same home or property.

Across Canada, multi-generational sharing of properties is on the rise. As of 2021, nearly one million households were shared by multiple generations of one family, two or more families or one family living with unrelated people—a 45 percent increase over the previous 20 years, according to 2022 Statistics Canada data. This type of living arrangement represented seven percent of all households in 2021.

Statistics Canada census data in the same year showed that almost 1 in 10 children ages 0 to 14 (more than half a million children) lived in the same household as at least one of their grandparents. The vast majority of these children lived in a multi-generational household with at least one parent and at least one grandparent.

Shared living has benefits

With the rising costs of purchasing a home, it can make good financial sense to share larger homes or build backyard living structures. The number of multi-generational households is expected to continue to grow, as governments make it easier to renovate or build smaller homes on existing family lots. 

From a practical perspective, multi-generational living can also make it easier for middle-aged adults in the “sandwich” generation to take care of children and support ageing parents at the same time. It can help to reduce the risk of social isolation among seniors, supporting better health, and provide more opportunities for children to spend time with grandparents. 

Multi-generational living can also support shared expenses, pooling of resources, shared caregiving responsibilities and increased emotional bonds between family members.


Thoughtful design: how to use windows and doors to support multi-generational living spaces

Of course, multi-generational living doesn’t come without challenges. It can be difficult to find and afford large dwellings, and cohabitants might suffer from lack of space or privacy. In this work-from-home era, noise between rooms is an issue too.

But thoughtful design can alleviate some of the concerns that come with household sharing, creating more harmony, and even fostering inter-generational communication and inclusivity.

Consult all family members when designing shared spaces

When mapping out a renovation, or simply upgrading windows and doors, homeowners who share their properties with different generations will want to consider each age group’s needs and preferences. This can allow for good functionality, meaning an environment that enhances togetherness while giving each person the privacy they need.

Encourage all family members to weigh in during the design process to ensure everybody’s wants and needs are incorporated. Collaboration from the start will make for a more harmonious shared space over the long-term. A good discussion among family members of different generations will create better understanding and open up communication in the home.

Consider age and mobility needs

Living spaces must be safe and accessible for all of your home’s inhabitants. Remove any barriers that may prevent seniors or people with disabilities from staying mobile and independent.

Consider the need for ramps, lifts, non-slip flooring and design features like grab bars in the bathroom, as well as how interior doors might help or hinder the flow between rooms for people with mobility challenges.

While open floor plans lend themselves to an easy flow between rooms, greater privacy may be needed for those who are working or studying. In these cases, flexible design can ensure rooms are easily adapted for different purposes. 

If your dining room is a multi-purpose eating, home schooling and work space, for example, a pair of aesthetically pleasing French or pocket doors can be closed when it’s time for quiet work and left open when it’s time to eat or enjoy time as a family. Wider doorways also help people with wheelchairs or walkers to move freely and independently through the home.

Well-chosen interior door hardware is also a consideration when it comes to family members with mobility issues. For example, lever door handles can help make spaces more easily accessible.

JELD-WEN of Canada has a wide range of beautiful interior door styles and finishes to suit any family’s needs.

Ensure personal space with the right interior doors

Harmony in multi-generational living requires a balance of togetherness and alone time. For spaces that act as a quiet retreat, like bedrooms and bathrooms, the right interior doors are key to reducing sound transmission between living areas.

The materials used within the core of an interior door impact its overall weight, its ability to withstand impact and the level of sound transmitted through the door. Solid core interior doors are heavier than hollow core doors and provide a better sound barrier in areas where quiet and privacy are needed—bathrooms, bedrooms, laundry rooms, music rooms and home offices, for example.

JELD-WEN® ProCore The Quiet Door® reduces sound transmission by up to 50 percent when compared to a hollow door. Read our comprehensive guide to buying interior doors for more information about the differences between hollow and solid core interior doors.

Make the most of outdoor spaces

When weather permits, efficient use of outdoor spaces can expand your multi-generational family’s “living room.” Your design plan should take into account the indoor and outdoor hobbies and interests of different family members. Maybe these varied interests include gardening, dining outside, play areas for children or simply pulling up a comfy chair to sit and read. 

Besides considerations such as creating shade, generating heat in colder seasons and choosing effective outdoor lighting, you’ll want to select exterior doors that blend the lines between indoor and outdoor living.

Let in natural light and create more easy living space with patio doors and even a feature wall of windows or folding doors. A large amount of glass is on-trend, makes a strong style statement and brings the outdoors in, expanding the space for your multi-generational family to enjoy. 

Wider and taller doors are another means of creating more glass and allowing easy access between indoors and out. Your house will feel bigger, with more welcome breathing space.

Read our blog post on bridging the gap from inside to out with perfect patio doors for more inspiration.

What role do windows play in multi-generational households?

When selecting new windows for a multi-generational household, consider how each family member uses the home. You might, for example, choose windows built bigger and lower so a senior family member can enjoy the view from a bed or a chair.

Natural light impacts our sleep patterns. For those who spend a lot of time in the house, more light during daytime hours can help the body’s rhythms. Windows and doors with expansive glass can help.

At the same time, people’s eyes can be more sensitive to glare and bright lights as they age, so talk to your window expert about tints to reduce glare and consider blinds or curtains for when direct sunlight is shining in.

Be sure that your windows are easy to open and close. If your windows are on the older side, look out for warped frames or general stickiness that might make it hard for people with mobility or pain issues to operate the window. If you’re buying new windows, talk to your window retailer about operating mechanisms that are easier to use.

For family members who have Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, balance, depth perception, cognition and memory may be affected. You may need to apply decals to glass doors and large windows so they’re not perceived as open spaces.

New windows and doors can increase home comfort for the whole family

Window and door technology has made leaps and bounds in the past couple of decades. New windows and doors that are designed with environmental efficiency in mind will help to ensure that all the generations of your family live comfortably during every season. 

JELD-WEN’s JWC8500 series of windows are our most energy-efficient yet, with an ideal blend of style, performance and energy savings. Enjoy a 26 percent slimmer frame that maximizes glass area while maintaining window strength and enhancing your view.

Plus, with up to 22 percent better energy efficiency, you’ll reduce your energy bills and increase home comfort, so the whole gang stays toasty in winter and cool in summer.

Multi-generational living for the win

Multi-generational home sharing can be done successfully, with a focus on designing for all of your home’s inhabitants. With thought and planning given to function, accessibility, noise and privacy, the shared household can be an enjoyable, harmonious space for all. 

All that’s left is to bond over family time spent with shared meals, group homework help, patio living and bingeing your favourite TV shows.



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