The way we interact with the world around us is changing. Developments in technology, society and the economy have led to us living our lives in very different ways to what we might have done 50 years ago.

According to Pew Research Center, one in five Americans lives in a multigenerational household. A multigenerational household is defined as including at least two adult generations or grandparents and grandchildren under the age of 25. Since 1950, American multigenerational households have risen from 32.2 million to 64 million in 2016.

With different generations living together and sharing spaces, there are opportunities for innovation to help bring these households of all ages together. Living spaces now need to be able to adapt to accommodate the different needs of multiple members of a family at different stages in their lives. As innovations are developed, it's important for inventors and businesses to consider protecting their designs to ensure that only they are able to enjoy their profitability.

How can multigenerational households lead to innovation?

As multiple generations are brought together to live under one roof, it can be difficult for a living space to be accessible to or valued by all. Developments in smart technology, the Internet of Things, environment controls and furniture have the potential to lead to opportunities in design for multigenerational living.

Kitchens are just one example of where technology is being utilised to benefit multiple generations in one household. The kitchen is often a social area of a living space in which a family will eat together and communicate. Kitchen tables will have multiple uses as an area for food preparation, dining, home working and children's play. Innovations that are currently being seen in the market are surfaces that will adjust in height dependent upon its use or its user.

The integration of smart technology with everyday items such as kitchen tables is another example of how multigenerational households can offer opportunity for design innovation. We are starting to see smart tables that can charge devices, heat food and use artificial intelligence to adapt to the needs of families at different stages of their lives.

Protecting innovations and their profitability

The increase of multigenerational households brings forth an opportunity to contemplate how families now integrate together when multiple age groups exist and how they all have different priorities and expectations. The opportunity for design and innovation to make a difference in how we interact with our homes and the people around us has the potential to create real value in our environments.

As designers and innovators move forward with new advances for our living spaces, it is essential that they consider their intellectual property to ensure that they can enjoy the success of their creations. Designs, as well as other forms of protection such as trademarks and copyrights, are needed to safeguard innovations and the brands that support them.