Are Tiny Homes an Option for Aging in Place?
Updated: 4 days ago
I have always seen tiny homes as very problematic dwellings for older adults. This article shows why: steps to the interior; small, inaccessible bathrooms; a lot of vertical space use including lofts (with ladders!) for a bedroom. Really? A place like that for a population that is guaranteed to acquire serious balance, gait, and mobility issues within a few years? No thanks.
This article also suggests that if you expand the living space beyond 200 sf, you just might be able to squeeze some accessibility features into the interior. My judgement is that you can't really get an authentic age-friendly unit until you get to around 400 sf, and forget about having it be mobile. This size generally puts it outside of the typical "tiny home" category, and prevents the unit from being mobile as well.
We like dwellings that are 400 sf - 600 sf studio or one-bedroom, and are fixed-in-place. Dwellings like these are generally categorized as accessory dwelling units (ADU's) or secondary dwelling units (also called granny pods). With a graded, step-free entrance and a fully functional interior, these really small units can be placed on a family member's property (as the article suggests) to provide an element of privacy and autonomy for the older adult while having helpers and caregivers right nearby.
We think homes like this and arrangements like this can help keep older adults in their own home and connected to family and community for many years, delaying moves to expensive care settings of all types, including assisted living. In addition to all the other advantages, this creates a powerful financial incentive to consider these types of living arrangements. It saves money too!
However, a tiny home might be a great option for an able bodied caregiver of an older adult who is remaining in the primary dwelling on a property. A tiny home might be placed on the lot, providing a private space for the caregiver who has immediate access to the older person.
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