We have heard that term “thinking outside the box” for years – so much so that it likely has lost a lot of its initial impact as a way of suggesting that we shouldn’t be so limited to traditional approaches of solving or investigating issues.
When it comes to housing, and specifically aging-in-place, we literally can think outside the box where the box is the existing home.
A traditional approach – and often the only one available to us for a variety of reasons, including building and zoning codes – is to take the existing home that someone is in an modify it in such a way (subject to budgetary constraints) as to allow them more complete use of their space for the time period indicated by them or someone such as an OT. This is a fine approach, but it may not be the only one available or the most cost-effective.
All other things being equal – and this is a huge assumption – rather than investing in remodeling or modifying the main dwelling unit on a property and sometimes performing a substantial reconfiguration of the space at a corresponding large investment, adding an auxiliary dwelling unit (“ADU”), transitional home, tiny home, shipping container home, or granny-pod to the backyard is a great alternative.
There are so many advantages to this approach.
First, no disruption of the main dwelling is necessary. A year, two years, five years, or whatever period of time from now, that home can be sold looking exactly like it does now in terms of room sizes and configurations, door sizes, window placements, and other features – regardless of how functional they are in terms of market appeal. The home can just go on being what it is.
Second, rather than modify the main dwelling – if it is for the principal occupants of that home – they can simply relocate to the little, more efficient, compact home “out back” and use the main home for storage, cooking, bathrooms, or even as a rental property (subject to local codes).
Third, if the new, smaller residence is for relatives, nothing needs to change in the main home to accommodate them, and they will be getting a brand new setting for themselves. Both the occupants of the main dwelling and those coming to live in the auxiliary unit will be happy with their space.
Fourth, the relatives coming to live in the ADU, if that is the case, would have total independence to come and go if they are ambulatory or live on their own without being under constant visual scrutiny of others in the household. Still, they are close enough that a lookout can be maintained for their safety and well-being.
Finally (at least for this list), when that home has served its purpose, it can have several other uses. It can house teenagers or the twenty-somethings after college, it can be a workshop or studio, it can be a ma or lady cave, it can be a media center, or it can be a revenue-producing rental apartment (if that is allowed). It also can be totally removed – sold to someone else or recycled as appropriate.
This is how to think outside the box of aging-in-place remodeling of the main structure by coming up with a completely different solution in the form of a secondary dwelling.