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Are Tiny Homes an Option for Aging in Place?

Not Really*

*Read to the end for two exceptions.

Tiny Home-type dwellings have become pretty popular in recent years as a housing choice for a lot of people. They seem to fill a particular niche with affordability being a real advantage. They can be a great housing option...just not for older adults. From what I've seen Tinies may also be a bad choice for people of any age who have mobility issues or other physical disabilities.

Tiny Homes are 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 significant balance, gait, and mobility issues within a few years? No thanks.

photo: Tumbleweed Tiny Houses

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 (or larger), and are fixed-in-place. Dwellings in this size range these can actually be used as viable accessory dwelling units (ADU's), also called secondary dwelling units, or  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 these 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, creating a private space for the caregiver who has immediate access to the older person. Or, the tiny home might be used for rental income, providing the older adult the means to remain in their primary dwelling.

To see the referenced article click HERE

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