When our loved ones are older and need a little extra help in their daily lives, you may not be able to keep from worrying about them if they live alone. For various reasons, it may not be practical to have them live with you, though, but what if they aren’t ready for assisted living or a nursing home? This is when tiny homes can be a perfect solution for seniors.
What are tiny homes for elderly parents? Tiny homes are small houses that offer elderly parents the ability to stay close to their caretakers and still maintain their sense of privacy. Tiny houses can be designed specifically for the elderly and physically disabled and will typically be located in the back yard of a loved one.
Indeed, for something so small in size, tiny homes can bring huge benefits in terms of peace of mind. The adult children who are concerned about their parents are literally right across the yard, so the parent can still be independent. And, these small houses allow the senior to interact with their loved ones on a regular basis, avoiding the loneliness that affects so many of today’s elderly.
Tiny houses are also easy to clean, cost effective to build and maintain, and may provide a great housing solution for financially challenged seniors wishing to avoid the high cost of nursing homes. In this article, we’ll go into greater detail to help you better understand what these homes are, as well as where to find them if they sound like a perfect fit for your loved one.
“I work with more and more buyers who are looking for a multigenerational solution for their families.” Cindi Hagley, California Realtor®
Backyard Solutions For Senior Housing
If you have a senior living with you, you may have found that you need more space and time away from each other. The problem is, if the parent requires some help with certain tasks, you really won’t want them to move out. A tiny home will give you both a bit more space and privacy, while allowing you to be right across the yard (or driveway) from your loved one.
Tiny homes offer peace of mind because of the perks that come with them, such as:
- The ability to install video monitors to see your loved ones in case of an emergency
- Motion-activated floor lights
- System monitors that display medication times, to ensure they are taken on time and properly
- Two-way intercoms for easy communication
- Being capable of having grab bars installed in the bathroom and shower
The elderly can live in these homes without having to give up too much independence. Keep in mind, however, that zoning laws are going to vary by state, so putting one in your backyard may not be possible.
Are Tiny Homes Safe For Elderly Parents?
Tiny homes can be built specifically to house the elderly and anyone who is physically disabled. These houses come with a multitude of safety features that are designed to keep health risks low. Handicapped accessible bathrooms are standard in these small spaces, which will help prevent your loved ones from being injured.
In addition, many tiny homes offer upgrades, such as top of the line medical equipment that routinely monitors the activity and health of the senior(s) residing there.
And, if you are still worried about the well-being of your loved one, you can always pay them a visit since they will be just a few steps away.
Types Of Small Homes For Seniors
There are many types of small homes that can benefit your elder, but not all come with the same amenities. To figure out which kind of tiny house would be best for your loved one, we’ve listed some of the most senior friendly housing on the market today (and we’ll explain them in more detail in the sections following):
- Granny Pods
- Elder Cottages
Some of these homes can easily be relocated if need be, and offer the best at-home care solution for elderly parents or loved ones without having to worry about nursing homes and caretakers.
Before you run out and purchase a tiny home for your elderly parent, check into your community zoning laws, your HOA covenants, and the city’s occupancy standards to ensure that you can have one on your property. Otherwise, you may have to consider remodeling the garage into another room for your elderly parent, which defeats the purpose of a separate, but nearby home for them.
What Are Granny Pods?
Starting off the list for tiny house senior living is the Granny Pod, a home type that has been available for a few decades. Granny pods have steadily grown more popular over time. Why? Because Baby Boomers are retiring in huge numbers and they want to be able to live close to their families.
Granny pods are often referred to as “mother-in-law suites.” They are small modular homes that typically contain anywhere from 300 to 500 square feet of living space. They are placed in the adult child’s backyard and provide all necessary home amenities like:
- Bathrooms with toilet and shower
Granny pods are ideal for one person, but it isn’t uncommon for a senior couple to live comfortably in one of these. One nice feature is that many of these pods can be set up with a virtual monitoring system that keeps track of your relative’s health. Some systems can be configured to send the information to your family’s doctor, as well.
These systems can keep track of such things as:
- Blood pressure
- Glucose levels
- Heart rate
- Blood gases
Are Granny Pods Legal?
Granny Pods are a safe bet for your loved one, but people are often concerned with the legality of placing a second home in their back yard. Whether or not a granny pod is legal will depend on your city’s zoning laws.
You can check this list at AccessoryDwellings.org to find out what your specific community legally allows.
Or, you may find that your city may allow you to build a granny pod, while the Homeowner’s Association in your particular housing development may not allow it.
Also keep in mind that the zoning laws may regulate just how big the pod can be. The same goes for every other type of tiny house featured on this list.
Though small, tiny houses aren’t cheap – they start at around $40,000 and can go upwards of $125,000. Additionally, you likely will not be able to carry a mortgage on them, so be sure to do your research before contracting to have one built.
What Are Elder Cottages?
Elder cottages are very similar to granny pods: an elder cottage is a small self-contained dwelling that is often seen as a temporary placement for senior citizens. These are also secondary housing units that can be found in the back yard where a family is trying to monitor a loved one. You might know them as “echo housing” or granny flats or accessory dwellings.
What separates these cottages from the rest of the list is how easily the home can be moved. Granny pods and MEDcottages are designed for longer-type housing, where the seniors may live out the rest of their life. Elder cottages are often preferred by many seniors who are wanting to stay near their families, and whose loved ones are more likely to have to move for jobs or other reasons.
These homes are customizable, so many elder cottages are built to look like the home they reside behind. This helps them blend into the community. In the cases of zoning restrictions, there are some models that have been designed to be attached right onto the existing house, becoming an instant home addition.
Elder cottages provide features like:
- Easy navigation through the home and one level living
- Wheelchair accessible doorways
- Kitchen and bath can be configured for wheelchair access
- Elevated toilets
- Reinforcing is built in behind bathroom walls so grab bars can be installed
The prices of elder cottages usually run from around $45,000 for a simple, one bedroom, 570 square foot home, to about $60,000 for a cottage with one to two bedrooms and around 950 square feet of space.
A cost comparison was undertaken early in the Elder Cottage program. A local couple was considering purchasing a small one-bedroom house for their aging parents. During the family meeting, the question was raised—what, when the elder family members no longer needed the house, would happen if a secondary buyer for the cottage could not be found. The family did some research and found that even if they had to GIVE the house away after sixteen months, it would still be less expensive than putting the elder couple in a nursing home, and in the interim, both families would be only a short walk across the yard from each other.” – Eldercottages.com
What Is A MEDCottage?
A MEDcottage is a brand name for a high tech tiny home that is attached to the adult child’s main home and runs off of the homeowner’s utilities (water, sewer, and electric). They come as a kit that you either build out yourself or hire a contractor to build for you.
A MEDcottage is typically smaller than an elder cottage or granny pod, but still features everything from disabled assisted bathrooms to its own bedroom. Most MEDcottages are around 290 square feet in size and come with features such as:
- Air filtration systems
- Lighted floorboards
- Handicap accessible bathrooms
- Sensored and video-based monitoring systems
- Medical systems that dispense and track medicine
- Safety railings
- Soft floors designed to minimize damage from trips and falls
- First aid supplies and medication dispensers
- Room in the larger cottage for a caregiver who may need to stay with the senior
MEDcottages are essentially portable hospital rooms with living amenities to make them more comfortable for the senior. These houses are prefabricated, so you don’t have to go through the trouble of drawing up blueprints and hiring a contractor to build one. If you find that you don’t need it anymore, the MEDcottage can be easily disassembled and moved by another purchaser (or maybe turned into that She-shed or man-cave you have always wanted!).
*Note that MEDcottages tend to be more of a solution for seniors who require some type of medical care.
The MEDCottage is a mobile, modular medical dwelling designed to be temporarily placed on a caregiver’s property for rehabilitation and extended care. Simply stated, it’s a state-of-the-art hospital room with remote monitoring available so caregivers and family members have peace of mind knowing they are providing the best possible care.” – Medcottage.com
How Much Does A MEDCottage Cost?
MEDcottages can be fairly expensive. You will want to be sure that you can pay cash for one of these homes because you won’t be able to pay a mortgage on one of these. Paying the money up front is mainly the only way you can get one.
With that in mind, I am sure you are wondering how much a MEDcottage costs. They can run anywhere from about $40,000 for the smallest version to a little over $61,000 (in 2019) for the company’s Grand model (it has more than one room, just like a tiny house). If you buy one and have it fully installed, it will run you between $85,000 to $125,000 in total. We grant that this may sound expensive at first, but if you calculate the cost of a nursing home (which typically costs between $5,000 to $7,000 per month), MEDcottages suddenly become a much more viable option.
As I said, the most expensive MEDcottage (and biggest at 605 square feet) is the Grand at slightly over $60,000. You can lower costs by choosing a different, smaller type of MEDcottage:
- Their Mother Ship model is a rehabilitation pod that fits on an RV platform, making it able to be placed in ninety-nine percent of US municipalities.
- Their LivingRoo Garage Pod fits handily inside a two-bay garage. It features HD monitors that are framed to look like windows: an HD camera is placed outside, so the person gets the illusion that they are able to see outside.
If you would like, you can even rent a MEDcottage if you live in Virginia, North Carolina, or South Carolina. The contact phone number for rentals is 336-429-1523.
Can You Buy A Tiny House On Amazon?
You know, you can buy just about anything on Amazon these days, so why not buy a tiny house kit from them?
The Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit (pictured here) is a great example of a tiny house you can get through Amazon. It is 540 square feet and retails for about $34,000 (in 2019). Plus, you might even be able to get free shipping!
It has 8 foot tall walls and can be configured for 3 to 5 rooms, including a bedroom, bathroom, office or second bedroom, living room, and small kitchen. This model also has a sleeping loft that a senior could use for storage.
The kit also comes with all the required nails, screws, fixings, handles and door locks.
It has triple glass windows and doors and will stand up to 120 mph winds. The roof can hold up under 46 pounds per square foot. There are also upgraded models available if you need an even sturdier building and you can request certain modifications from the builder.
Another model that is a bit larger, the Allwood Eagle Point is 1108 square feet is also an option.
This beautiful tiny home is custom made to order with rooms, doors and windows can be added or removed, etc.
You can purchase the extra wall insulation package if you will be living in a colder climate.
Although these kits come un-assembled for you to put it together, you can also hire a construction crew to do the work for you.
The listing for this home on Amazon has many answers to questions so if you are interested in adding a granny pod type of building to your backyard I would encourage you to take a look!
If you aren’t sure you want to buy an actual house on Amazon, you can certainly buy the plans for building one. For example, Easy Cabin Designs has a plans package that includes complete working blueprints, several elevations, a rafter cut sheet, and a materials list for around $50.00.
Tiny Home Community For Elderly
Another thing to consider is that tiny homes don’t necessarily have to be for seniors who need help. In fact, the tiny house trend is taking over active senior communities.
These developments are catering to retirees who are done with living in the “McMansions” where they raised their children and who now want the freedom that tiny homes can offer – both financially and in terms of upkeep. For example, a 2018 article on Today relates the story of a retiree who spent just $65,000 on her tiny home – in the Portland, OR area where the median sales price of a home is upwards of $394,000. In many cases, seniors can by their tiny home for cash and not have to worry about paying a mortgage during their golden years.
People who are attracted to the tiny house lifestyle are usually those who desire a more minimalist approach to living. They may have had experience with helping their parents move into assisted living and know the pain of trying to get rid of decades of accumulated stuff. Or, they just may want to leave a smaller carbon foot print and don’t want to spend their days cleaning a house that is too big for them.
If you are worried about how livable a tiny house is, Tiny Home Builders, a company based in Atlanta, GA, specializes in one-level tiny homes. these are great for seniors who may no longer be able to climb up to the sleeping lofts you will find in many tiny homes.
If you are interested in trying out tiny home living, places such as Little River Escape in Cloudland, GA or WeeCasa in Lyons, CO offer nightly rentals so you decide if you want to commit before you buy.
As you can see, there are tiny homes on the market that are capable of meeting your senior’s needs, whether they just need a helping hand or if they need a more high tech, hospital-type of residence. While tiny homes might not be the best solution for every senior, the peace of mind of having your senior close by makes them a perfect option to consider.