DETROIT These days, when as many tricycles as walkers litter the hallways of many senior living centers, cities are trying to figure out the best way to accommodate under one roof grandparents and the children they are raising.
The results are new homes with services and features for all members of the so-called ''grandfamilies.'' There's day care for the children and windows that look out over the playground so the grandparents can watch from inside.
Developers in Detroit are planning two projects of specially designed low-income housing. Similar projects already exist in Boston and Buffalo, N.Y., while Chicago and New York City have broken ground on their own developments.
''The dynamics of families are changing, and we need to figure out new ways to address it so these children can grow up whole,'' said Sharon West, director of the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority and a 56-year-old grandmother who is raising her 6-year-old granddaughter.
Subsidized townhouses planned for Detroit will create a community cluster of practical, attractive and safe homes for grandparents 55 and older thrust back into parenthood.
They will be in working-class neighborhoods, bounded by fences and hedges, and will include a library, computer room, classroom and recreation center.
''The apartments in Boston, for example, are built for both age groups, so that you have grab bars in the bathrooms, and covers for the electrical outlets,'' said Donna Butts, executive director of Generations United, a nationwide advocacy group for grandparents.
The housing options are filling a much-needed void. U.S. Census figures show that roughly 2.4 million grandparents nationwide in 2002 were raising their grandchildren, up from about a million in 1990.
Millie Stewart joined those ranks nearly two years ago when her daughter's mental illness prevented her from caring for her three children, ages 16, 14 and 6.
The 64-year-old retired IRS pay clerk could get by on her pension and Social Security when it was just her, but is stretching her budget to the limits now.
She had to get a bigger home, and her rent doubled to $500 a month. Cleaning, caring for the children, taking them to school and the dentist, going to the supermarket and cooking meals leaves her too exhausted even to think about getting a job.
''It's hard. It's a struggle,'' Stewart said. ''But how do you tell your grandkids you can't take care of them because you can't afford it? You can't say that.''
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