Wonder Cottage or Granny Pod?

by Kent Griswold on May 9th, 2010. 33 Comments
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One of the Tiny House Blog readers Ginmar spotted this article in the Washington Post and I thought I would show it to you.

The Rev. Kenneth Dupin, who leads a small Methodist church here, has a vision: As America grows older, its aging adults could avoid a jarring move to the nursing home by living in small, specially equipped, temporary shelters close to relatives.

So he invented the MEDcottage, a portable high-tech dwelling that could be trucked to a family’s back yard and used to shelter a loved one in need of special care. Continue to read the full article at the Washington Post site.

33 Responses to “Wonder Cottage or Granny Pod?”

  1. Louise says:

    I think this is an interesting concept. Does anyone else think it is strange that it is drawn with the bed so prominently in the center of the main room? I mean, really, would you want to walk right in the big French door and then have to shuffle around the bed bed to get to the kitchen?

  2. wil says:

    As one of those this cottage is directed towards, it sure looks like a prison cell to me.

  3. Lou2 says:

    I agree with Louise and Wil, if the bed is the primary place for the granny, there needs to be a room for an attendant. I would never leave my bedridden granny alone even with an electronic tv monitor.

  4. Jamie says:

    I don’t know. My grandfather reached a point in his 90′s where he was still very coherent and independent around the house, but what he did most of the time was to find a place to sit and relax and to nap on and off. He needed a bathroom close by that he didn’t have to hike to the other end of the house for, and he wanted easy access to the kitchen to grab something to eat. This would have been ideal for his needs, in my opinion.

  5. Roberta says:

    I like it alot. Of course, there are always going to be things that would or would not apply to someone’s care. In general, the concept of having a portable mini- cottage delivered for short or long term care so that one can be near family is great! They do point out that there is a possibility for a Murphy bed on the illustration. And besides if one is paying someone to stay with a person, you probably don’t want them sleeping on the job, unless it is a family member then a Murphy bed would do just fine. Another solution to replace institutional care…I really like it!

  6. alice says:

    If only one person is allowed to live in it and it’s for medical reasons, they’d most likely have a hospital type bed anyway rather than a huge queen sized thing. That bed would make patient care more complicated and be really hard on the caregiver’s back if they have to move the patient a lot. A caregiver might have to ‘sleep on the job’ if there’s 24 hour care required. A small sleeping alcove for the caregiver would help maintain a bit of privacy while still allowing them to monitor the patient. Overall it’s a good option for a particular set of needs, possibly adaptable for others. It appears to be more of an additional room with extras than an actual fully fledged home.

  7. deborah says:

    Did anyone read the actual article? The supposed bleeding heart intends to lease these pods for 2K a month and expects insurance to pick up the tab!!! Ridiculous!

    Also, has anyone considered how they would get these “pods” into the backyards of many communities where there is barely room to walk between houses? These was not a very well thought out idea on this mans part.

    • Judy Wagner says:

      This may be true is some locations but as a Realtor I have seen many houses that have enough area for something like this, but the main house itself is not suitable for an elderly person. But this would be doable. Even if they did not need all the speciality items that this unit has but would work for many eledrly family members even in a duplex setting and town home communities that have larger yard areas here in southern and southwestern Virginia Judy

    • I gather you’ve never looked at how much insurance companies pay for nursing home housing.

  8. Susan McReynolds says:

    I have full intentions not to be a “burden” to my family when I’m older, so I’m going to restore and reconfigure the basement area- my bedroom and bath will be adjacent to the downstairs family room. I’ll have contact with the family, but stairs won’t be an issue. It would make depression a likely outcome if I were isolated in a outdoor unit. I feel using the existant space is better for the “greening” of America and better for the mental welfare of oldsters.

  9. LeeAnn Balbirona says:

    The kitchen area could be smaller (what’s with the full-sized fridge? seems excessive) and having the gigantic bed smack in front of glass doors seems odd. There’s little dignity if there’s no privacy.

  10. Arlos says:

    I find it admirable that someone is tackling the looming problem of home care for the aging baby boom population.
    The design problems can be addressed as this is only a computer generated concept.
    I just taught a class in greywater and would love to find source’s of funding to address water reuse…

  11. Robert says:

    1/3 or 1/2 the price of a nursing home and 10′ from my grandkids… I’d take this any day! This might be the most important small home ever designed. And the only one that will benefit 100,000s or millions of people.

    I’ve heard that being thrown into a nursing home (usually after a visit to the hospital leads to a Dr. saying you can’t go home) causes significant anxiety and in turn health problems. The stress of leaving your family literally kills you… and in a lonely way.

  12. Linda says:

    It’s furniture, you can furnish the space any way you like. It could even be divided between a small bed and sitting room or desk. It’s up to the owner.

  13. di says:

    It may be less expensive to convert a garage that is already attached to a house. If you create an elevated floor, plumbing and heating can be attached to the existing house.

    • Jen says:

      My father had a stroke and this may have really worked well. My mother had to quickly remodel their home while he was in rehab to meet the needs of a wheelchair-bound person who needed almost 100% assistance – particularly the bathroom. But even with the changes they made that worked well, their home was still not ideal.

  14. di says:

    This may be unrealistic:

    - Medicare does not cover long-term nursing home care.
    - This may not qualify with other insurance plans.
    - Caring for a bedridden patient is a 24-hour responsibility.

  15. Blake Voss says:

    With so small a space as this, the kitchen area should not be in a separate room. Removing the wall between the kitchen and main room will make the living space larger.
    And I agree with others that point out that the bed is too big for one person in a small “apartment”. A twin bed along the back wall is sufficient (and it could be converted into a sofa during the day by adding some pillows).
    Why is the ceiling so high in the main room? That might make it much harder to transport. This is an interesting concept but the design is very rough.

  16. Gisele Denton says:

    This is great and doable..I have three friends
    that are entertaining the idea of a granny pod
    versus building an extention to existing house
    for an elderly parent who need assisted living.
    A Murphy bed can be installed for a caregiver’s
    visits..Pod costs same as one year of 24 hour
    care..think about that! Of course they all
    live on acreage but have to adhere to permit
    regulations.

  17. Mike B says:

    I heard a report on NPR regarding granny pods with computerized video support.

    I believe that the concept of the granny pod does have merit for the elder individual that is not bed bound or who requires others to assist them in daily activities.
    However, the “pod” as described, on your property, omits the important concept of plumbing. Where’s the water coming from?
    Where does the kitchen, laudry and bathroom waste go?
    How will these services be accomplished if not tied into the “main” house services?

    Regarding insurance/Medicare payment, I’ll just bet that this concept is less expensive than full time nursing houme or assisted living arrangements. Once that’s made clear, then insurance companies will jump to pay for it. They may require a “doctor’s order” but that should not be an issue.

  18. Mike B says:

    Just an add on.

    Electric, Heating and Air Conditioning are not addressed in this plan.

    As it stands, its a fair weather concept.

    Thanks,
    Mike

  19. This is intended to be a portable, temporary structure to help in the transistion of older relatives from living on their own to having a bit of help close at hand. No, it is not for a caregiver to live in too. The person living in the main house is the intended helper, to check in on Dad, Granny, etc during the day and help with meals or medications as needed. It also gives the person that needs assistance some privacy and a sense of independence.
    Many people don’t have an extra living space to dedicate for this purpose.

  20. Jay McGinn says:

    I have a rep group covering the Southeastern US
    I am very interested in this product.
    Please contact me.
    Jay McGinn
    mcginnassociates@cs.com
    704-661-6569

    • Kent Griswold says:

      Jay – you need to contact the company, this is just a post about them. – Kent (Tiny House Blog)

  21. Lorraine says:

    I think this is neat, I would even stay in it.

  22. Steve says:

    Add a composting toilet, rain collection barrels, solar heating and power, heat pump and other sustainable features and it could reasonably be set anywhere. Perhaps it could be fitted for two people so that two gentlemen or ladies could keep each other company to reduce the “prison” effect. Add a doggy door/cat box for pets and an intercom to the main house. If it could be purchased, it could also be advertized as an au pair or guest quarters or workshop then converted to elder care quarters later. Lot’s of possibilities. It’s great someone is offering up a potential starting place. Well done.

  23. David Shaffer says:

    I am interested in building a scale model of a home’s frame work: 2×4, 2×6 walls and etc. could you possibly tell me what that is called and where I might look for the woods to do that? I am interested in this becoming a ” hobby” for me. Thank you for any help you might give. Well it says my comments are too short (?) to publish? What do they want a chapter from a book? Oh well it might help to know that I have much experience in home remodeling etc.

  24. Vilynnie says:

    I was formerly one of those people who could make a judgment about a topic like this when, in fact, I knew very little about it. Until you are faced as the adult child (in my case, the ONLY adult child) trying to care for your aging and dependent parent, be open to suggestions about how they might live because, I guarantee you, they probably won’t be. They’ll leave it to you to figure it out; you will inherit their problems and have to be the problem-solver for them (and you will always be the “bad” guy). They want to stay right where they are, when it’s not practical or even safe.

    My dad saved as much money as he could but neglected to ever look into the true cost of elder care. Their 1950s-era house was not suitable for the aging adult; it was built for a young family. Narrow door frames, steps/stairs, large step over and down into the shower stall, etc. It got to be that they couldn’t even walk out onto the driveway to pick up their morning newspaper, step down onto the porch to pick up their mail, much less go into the garage where washing machine/clothes dryer was located, get around to the rear of the house to feed pets or water the lawn, etc. It’s a troubling progression.

    I was actually told by experts to walk away from my widowed mother, for the demands she put on me to care for her, based on where SHE wanted to live and, unrealistically, HOW she wanted to live. I, of course, couldn’t do it; never would. Instead, it ran me ragged traveling between two homes, hers and mine, many times per day (she had already been quite disabled for years, having many/increasing dependent needs). You have to remember when they reach old age, in this case the 80s, a lot of their friends have died or have their own frailties, neighbors have moved on, some family members (if there are any; in our case, none) have no desire to help, and won’t; maybe your parents were never associated with clubs or a church…there is simply no one to help, and they are resistant to outside help, either paid or volunteer. My mother was formerly a kind person but, out of desperation, became controlling and selfish about anyone else’s needs but her own as she struggled to hold onto her life. She has mega health problems and was very happy that I moved in with her for her first year of widowhood until I told her I simply had to get home to my husband…not to mention, my life.

    I’ve since reverse-mortgaged her home (for a pitiable amount, due to its dropped value in the recession) so that we have a way to pay for her since-hired, paid caregivers which were necessitated once Mom broke her back (osteoporosis, a big problem with elderly women). Believe me, I was queried/grilled (like a criminal) by the required “credit” counselors of the lender’s, as to every sort of living situation I could have come up with for Mom in order to make her savings stretch to the end of her life rather than choosing the most expensive way to live, which is in-home, 24-hr care, i.e. why we didn’t downsize Mom earlier and instead rent out her home so that she would have income; why not a move to a assisted-living community; sell our own home and move in with her; move her into our house; sell both homes and buy a home with granny quarters. Try advising a stubborn, frightened person…still in posession of her “faculties” and fighting to make her own decisions, even if they’re wrong ones…about all of her options when she refuses any and all of them, saying, “I’ll use up every last penny to stay at home til I go on the dole; then, I hope I’ll be dead because I won’t last one week in a nursing home.”

    Bottom line, I applaud anybody out there trying to find solutions to elder care living. I don’t think this MEDcottage is such a bad idea! Look into any and all solutions! When you are faced with trying to do the right thing for your elderly parent, when they are unwilling to do what’s right for you or your own family and unreasonable even when you try to inform them of other options to protect them and care for them, you need all the ideas and solutions you can possibly muster. It’s stressful, isolating and has taken years off of my life…we’re at five years of caregiving now for her. It’s living two lives, even with paid caregivers for her. There’s a huge amount of paperwork…payroll, accounting, bookkeeping, scheduling; a full-time job, and I already have another one. Had I been able to care for her with a tiny house or pod right off the back door of my house, just footprints away, or maybe if we could have lived in one ourselves temporarily off the back of hers, I might now be more sane, and she might have a less-dwindling bank account. My town is very rigid about granny flats, though. You are reported if you hook up a trailer in a neighborhood yard. In this recession/post-recession, I know of people living in motor homes, parked in someone’s driveway, but the authorities eventually catch on. You can only get so creative with that kind of rigidity.

    We become a student of our situation once it’s upon us, but sometimes it’s almost too late. We have a vast number of people reaching a certain milestone of age, formerly called “retirement years” (if anybody can still retire now!), and they are indeed the baby boomers. Some will live a long life because they’ve had a healthy one since youth (it’s been cushy for a lot of us, whereas The Greatest Generation before us knew harder times with The Great Depression, world war, etc.). Experts say most everybody who’s a boomer will be out of money before natural life is up; you save what you can, but it’s never enough. You can’t always start out gradually with elder care, getting a little bit of help as you need to pay for it. Your health can tank with one catastrophic event, completely turning your life upside down in a nano-second, leaving you with no idea what to do or how to proceed. The money for caregiving goes fast; at jet speed. Families are forced to intervene with hands-on care and when it no longer can be family care, or family/paid care as a combination, 24/7 paid care is all that’s left, and you can be spending over $100,000 per year for it, like my mother, who won’t budge from her home, simply delaying the inevitable of having to leave it once there’s nothing left to pay for caregivers. (That’s cold, hard cash; the only thing that helps her a little bit is long-term health care insurance, which will soon be finite and not renewable. Once all the savings are gone, and any investments and other insurance policies, Social Security is only a supplement, not enough income even to support the basic home expenses, and certainly not the expense of caregivers.)

    Be forewarned about this thru my own personal story of my mom’s situation, not to be frightened, but to PLAN. My parents had no plan. I guess they expected me to take care of them, although I’m not a trained nurse, or Dad felt he had enough money for nurses at home. Well, he did, for a couple of years, but that’s about it; THEN what? Think about your situation. Think about graduated care. Do you want to hang on to a conventional home, with yard care, housekeeping expense, etc. Someone to repair the garage door, someone to inspect the furnace, another person to pay for every little plumbing issue; it can be costly to maintain a home as it ages right along with you. These are hard decisions sometimes, but doing nothing and exploring no alternative housing options has disastrous consequences. I live it; I know it. I write out the checks for her, and my elderly parent is simply OUT of money. It’s been a sobering thing to watch go down, and I don’t know what she’d do if she didn’t have a child to be her advocate. Ironically, I have no kids, and this has been a huge wake-up call for me and my husband. Who will take care of US?

    For yourselves, if you are now in your 50s or 60s, look into it now, while you can make good decisions for yourself; don’t wait. Don’t discount any new ideas about elder care living, or criticize other people trying to come up with solutions! Not everybody is into it just to make a buck, but the entire subject of elder care living is starting to explode because of so many people reaching retirement age all at once; if I was young, that’s where I’d center my career, because it’s an industry which will boom, for boomers. And it’s tragic to have to be worried about your living situation and finances when you’re old and sick, when you need peace and security.

    • Dorinda says:

      You speak the truth. My only advice is to be the adult & take control. Now.

      My own mother is 83 & living with us for now. I am very close to evicting her & her pets. She has always been narcissistic & extremely self centered, even to her detriment. These traits have not improved with age.

      A small structure designed & furnished to meet the individual needs is a perfect solution to a difficult situation.

    • Nerida says:

      I hear you Vilynnie, I’ve been there. I had my mother in law live with us for 5 years before she passed away. We could and did build a granny flat for her in our backyard and then it took ages to get her into it. She wouldnt budge from the main house where she was living supposedly temporarily while the flat was built. We had a 10 year old at home as well.

      And yes it is incredibly taxing on your own physical and mental health. They say looking after children is one of the hardest jobs on earth, wrong, wrong, wrong, it is nothing compared to looking after an elder. Sad thing is having gone through it I think I could do it better if I had to do it again, thing is I will NEVER do it again. It is way to hard.

  25. Tracy says:

    I think it is really nice to have a small ,but some people are building the for 10’000 dollars and are selling for starting at 35,-40,000 thousand dollars. Now the reson for going small is to save. I brought a small house for 5900,and is 720 sf, so why would I pay 40.000 to live in 198sf

  26. Judy says:

    I pray my children don’t want something like this for me! Talk about isolation!!! I would much prefer to be around other people my age than isolated like this. It is way too small… I agree that it looks like a prison cell!

  27. Shar Hall says:

    As an R N I can not believe caregivers would rely on a med dispenser for their loved one. That is not acceptable for anyone with any level of cognitive impairment. Nothing can replace oversight and compassion.

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