Tiny homes have become very popular in recent years for their compact footprint. Many of them remain on wheels and can be moved about at the pleasure of the owners. That is one of many uses of these and a very attractive feature. They typically are less expensive than a larger home and easier to maintain due to their condensed size.
Tiny homes can be lived in by people of any age, but they seem popular with Millennials and with Boomers alike, albeit for different reasons. Some people look at them as their primary residence, while others may view it as a way to downsize or travel the countryside with something smaller than a motorhome.
Nevertheless, homes that have a small footprint occupy very little space onto which they are placed have many aging in place implications. Also, they aren’t near as new as many might think.
Tiny homes – those ranging to about 400 square feet in size (occasionally larger) – go by many other names as well. They might be called granny flats, granny pods, in-law suites, in-law quarters, accessory dwelling units (ADUs), auxiliary dwelling units (ADUs), accessory dwellings (ADs), container homes, pool homes, casitas, or guest houses, among others.
In some areas, it has been common for years for parents to move onto the property of their children and occupy a small separate dwelling that provides sitting, sleeping, bath, storage, and cooking areas, although a full kitchen with a stove or cooktop often is not allowed by the building or zoning department. Attached suites have been common for years as well where a part of the home functions as a separate living space.
More localities are now allowing the tiny home, accessory dwelling, or whatever other names they go by in that area. California and New Hampshire are among states that now allow them statewide. Amazon sells a kit for this, and many builders are focusing on building and delivering such dwellings.
There are many advantages to having the auxiliary residence located in the same yard as other family members. The adult children can easily walk over to their parent’s residence (inside their home or across the backyard) to visit and check on them. If they require attention for any reason, it is easily accommodated. When there are grandchildren present, they have enhanced access to their grandparents – when they come into the main home or when the children visit them in theirs.
Additionally, when children are present, they are able to participate more fully in the lives of their grandparents – this is good for both generations. This helps keep the grandparents younger in spirit, allows the grandparents to share and pass along family histories, memories, and heritage to the younger ones, and it provides a resident babysitting service.
The parents can visit the main home anytime they like (subject to ground rules that have been worked out about how early and how late each can visit the other’s home), watch TV, visit with the family, take their main meals, have coffee, read, play board or video games, have access to the internet and computers (which they may not have in their tiny home), and have the best of both worlds – living with their adult children and grandchildren and maintaining some independence at the same time.
At some future time when the accessory dwelling is no longer needed by the parents, it can be used as a den, studio, workshop, office, teenage bedroom, or even a rental apartment if zoning laws permit this.
The point is that tiny home or accessory dwelling – by whatever name they are called and however large or small they are but typically in the 300-400 square foot size and all on one level and totally accessible – is here to stay. It has been around for decades in some neighborhoods but is gaining in popularity as a way of accommodating Boomers and older generations who want to be in physical proximity to their family without necessarily being under the same roof.
Call them whatever name seems right for the area where they are located, or whatever the local authorities like them to be called. This does not detract from their intended usefulness. It does mean that aging parents – whether they need someone to check in on them on a regular basis or just to have them included in family activities – can be close to the action without necessarily being in the same home 24/7. It’s a financial alternate as well to remodeling a home to provide additional or reconfigured space for parents to move into the family home and take up residence there.
The tiny home (or whatever name is used) fits many aging in place needs to accommodate parents or others in the family at various stages of their lives and can be an asset for these same reasons if the property is sold at some future time.