Rather than undertake renovations to the home that will allow either the younger ones or the older ones – especially the older ones – to live more comfortably in the host home, an alternative that is gaining momentum is the auxiliary or accessory dwelling unit (ADU).
This small, compact building – also known by such names as the tiny home, granny-pod, and transitional home, among others – is becoming increasingly popular as a solution for accommodating the need for extra living space without touching the main dwelling.
In cases where the aging parents live independently but in a home that does not allow them the access or mobility they require, the ADU may be a great idea for them as well. Their current home can be left as it is while adding the very accessible ADU to the backyard. The main home can be rented for additional income or retained as it is for resale in a few years.
The ADU comes in various appearances and styles to fit most any architectural tastes and size requirements – from under 300 square feet on up – and is designed to fit into the backyard of an existing home.
Whether it is added to the backyard of the host home and then used for the returning younger adult children or for the elderly parents, it provides full-time living accommodations for those additional individuals without requiring any work to the main dwelling. Various upgrades and modifications might still be desirable in the main home, but they will not need to be done prior to accepting additional occupants since they will be living in their own adjacent ADU.
Typically designed and installed at grade level as a completed unit delivered to the site unit or as a kit that is assembled on site, it might have a small elevated porch or deck with an inclined walkway to connect it with the ground level around it. It could be connected to the main home with a covered sidewalk or breezeway also.
The ADU is a simple, livable, and easily accessible one-level floor plan that provides a living area, eating area, kitchen, bathroom, storage or closets, and sleeping area (sometimes a dedicated bedroom and sometimes using the living area).
ADUs have many aging in place advantages, but before they become even more widespread in usage, local jurisdictions will need to embrace and accept them. The property setbacks may have to be relaxed to allow ADU buildings to be closer to rear or side property lines – possibly right up against fences. The number of people that can occupy a building site, their relationship to each other, and the number of dwellings per acre may need to be revisited and modified as well.
The main thing is that there is now an alternative to extensive remodeling by adding a separate living unit to the property that can accommodate aging parents and have the added flexibility of being used as living space for caregivers or for a member of the family, a study, den, workshop, home office, playroom, or rental apartment.