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Home Designs Uniting Family Generations

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    Home Designs Uniting Family Generations

    Home Designs Uniting Family Generations
    Wednesday, September 25, 2002  BY BROOKE ADAMS

        PARK CITY -- From the outside, the two homes look like any of the other high-dollar houses tucked into the hillsides of this resort town.

        Expansive views. Multi-car garages. Exquisite styling. Lots of bedrooms and bathrooms. Enough space for not just one family, but two -- which is exactly what these "intergenerational homes" or "extended family homes" are designed to accomplish.

        Built in the past year, the Noble/Hooten home in Jeremy Ranch and the Morken/Brown home in Mountain Ranch Estates are designed to accommodate -- under one roof -- two branches of a single family: the one just starting out and the one moving into its later years.

        "The kind of thing we're doing here has an honorable tradition of separate, independent living in the younger years and [communal] living in the elderly years," says Hugh Morken, 57, who lives with his wife and their daughter and son-in-law and their five kids.

        These homes-within-homes are a pioneering update on the granny flat; each family has complete living quarters -- side-by-side in the Noble/Hooten house, stacked in the Morken/Brown home.

        The families say that by collaborating, they are able to live in a place and in a home that otherwise would have been beyond their individual means. More importantly, they are prepared to meet each other's caregiving needs -- tucking babies in today, tending to an aging parent in the future. And they are guided by the idea that the strongest family is an extended one, with the oldest generation helping to raise the newest one.

        Intergenerational housing was a common phenomenon at the dawn of the 20th century, said Larry McNickle, chief housing advocate for the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging.

        But mobility took over, and families began spreading out across the country.
        Now, he said, such living arrangements may be making a comeback because they allow autonomy while providing proximity and security -- a combination that appeals to Baby Boomers who are assuming responsibility for aging parents or facing the specter of their own future needs.

        Living with loved ones "may be more cost-effective and compassionate than some of the alternatives out there," McNickle said. "You get the best of both worlds, independence with opportunity for instant involvement if needed."

        The Morkens/Browns began talking about living together about three years ago, a conversation that gained urgency after Hugh Morken, who taught political science at Regent University in Virginia, took an early retirement because of health concerns.

        "I really felt the need for family support," said his wife Mary Morken.

        At the same time, son-in-law Matt Brown was interested in launching a construction company in Park City, where he had moved with wife Eva and their five children ranging in age from 10 months to eight years.

        "Where I'm at in my career, it's very difficult to live in Park City and we really wanted to stay here," he said.

        Joining forces made sense, Matt Brown said, and the Morken's other children backed the decision.

        "We made a commitment to stand by them with whatever is going to happen in the next few years," said Matt Brown, 30. "Part of that involves building a house with them and living with them."

        Cherie Hooten, a former Montana County Commissioner, credits divine inspiration with guiding her to share a home with daughter Deanna and son-in-law Michael Noble and their two children in Park City. "It was weirder that we were moving to Utah than that we were going to live with my mom," said Deanna Noble, who previously lived in California. Her husband Michael's home-based business was easily relocated.

        They tried sharing an existing house, looked at homes with mother-in-law and basement apartments, but found that to really work, Cherie Hooten "needed her own kitchen, her own space -- her own house basically," Deanna Noble said. And that meant starting from scratch.

        Matt Brown and Scott Stubbs, partners in Legacy Group Construction, built both intergenerational homes and are bidding two others.

        "You hear more people asking for homes designed like that," said Stubbs. "Ten or 15 years ago it was easy for people to put their parents in an old folks home, but now you want to bring your parents home with you and take care of them."

        Both families say it was easy to come up with a design that fit each generations' needs, including guestrooms in the grandparents' space for when other children and friends visit, separate heating zones and, in the Morkens' case, hallways wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair -- should the need arise.

        That planning may pay off sooner than expected for the Morkens, as Hugh Morken's 92-year-old dad is likely to come live with them in the near future.

        The mortgage is in the name of the older generation, though the younger family helps make the payment. Other bills are split.

        Cherie Hooten shares meals with her daughter's family about three times a week; the Morkens eat less often with their daughter's family.

        The families say they work at respecting each other's privacy, given the lack of walls to separate them. The Morkens, for example, don't come upstairs into their daughter's family space unless they have arranged to beforehand or ask, just like any visitor.

        When Mary Morken wanders upstairs to help her daughter or visit her five grandchildren, she sings out in her smile-washed voice "Knock, knock" and raps on air.

        "Arbitrary walls make it possible to get along," said Mary Morken. Her husband adds that "living in such close proximity makes distance critical."

        The Morkens and Browns say two books are required reading for families thinking about intergenerational living: The Fourth Turning and Boundaries (both by Dimen- sions in paperback).

        Deanna Noble says family meetings help clear the air on the rare occasion when things get touchy. "It's not like you have the privacy you'd have by yourself," Cherie Hooten said. "But sometimes you have to give a little to get a little."