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Outdoor Living Spaces That Work Across Generations

By Sally Perkins

by Sally Perkins

Designing residential outdoor areas with the needs and desires of people of all ages in mind provides homeowners multiple benefits according to a gardening specialist.

U.S. Census data shows that the number of house moves dropped last year, (https://www.census.gov/data/tables/time-series/demo/geographic-mobility/historic.html?kbid=93121) meaning designers and landscapers have an opportunity to find solutions that improve and maximize the use of existing properties. Savvy homeowners are keen to use every inch of their current space, and the area devoted to outdoor living is a key part of this. Landscape design which embraces family life of all ages is a smart investment; it can provide a welcome respite from work and school, encourage intergenerational connection, and - since 2019's market is showing modest signs of growth (https://landscapearchitect.com/articles/existing-home-sales-show-modest-monthly-gain/31051) - add financial value for future potential buyers. An area that truly delivers will help each age group to flourish in safety and comfort.

The Youngest Users
Research has shown that time spent in nature makes children less anxious, more attentive and happier, (https://childmind.org/article/why-kids-need-to-spend-time-in-nature/) but they're spending less time outside than ever. Outdoor Living design, which makes it easy for parents to bring their children outside, clearly offers real value to family life, but landscapers need to be mindful of the potential hazards. Just as parents make their homes safer for babies (https://www.rapidbuildinginspections.com.au/resources/home-safety-for-your-baby/) by examining the environment from a child's eye level and considering the pitfalls, designers should carry out the same exercise. Ponds must have a cover or fencing, steep stone steps or sharp drops should be avoided, and certain plants can be toxic if eaten. Once the safety basics are taken care of, imaginations can run wild with playhouses, tree swings or water fountains as space allows.

The More Mature Users
With nearly a quarter of American grandparents (https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/dec/19/grandparents-raising-grandchildren-growing-seniors) regularly helping with childcare, the area also needs to be a space, which seniors can enjoy safely and comfortably. As with their smaller counterparts, avoiding steep steps and cluttered pathways is a valid concern. Sensitive design could also include lighting and comfortable supportive seating, so that the space can be enjoyed for relaxation as well as supervising the children. If they wish to be involved in planting and growing, raised flowerbeds would be ideal as they are kinder to knees and backs.

Everyone in between
Ultimately, strong outdoor design with the family in mind will create a space which allows the generations to enjoy spending time together. Zoning can be effective, as it creates opportunities for each age group to have a little space of their own, whether that's to jump rope, play ball or paint quietly. Busy parents may also relish an outdoor cooking space to entertain friends, hold birthday parties, or simply relax at the end of their working day.
As with all landscaping briefs, each family's needs will be unique, but at their heart will be the desire to enjoy time together safely and happily. While homeowners seek to maximize their existing space, an outdoor area can be a real focus for family life. The industry has huge amounts of practical advice and inspiration to offer while America waits for the market to come into full bloom again.

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November 20, 2019, 2:17 pm PDT

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