Backyard 'Granny Pods' Let You Keep Your Aging Parents Closer, Safer And Make Them Feel Less Alone

Backyard 'Granny Pods' Let You Keep Your Aging Parents Closer, Safer And Make Them Feel Less Alone

These portable units come with a number of high-tech medical facilities and standard safety features of the likes of hand railings, defibrillators, first aid supplies etc.

Parenting is not an easy job. It takes a lot of patience and selflessness to raise a child and provide them with the necessary life skills to lead a successful life. From teaching them how to walk to guide them through crucial milestones in their life, being a parent is a life-long commitment. However, there comes a point in their life where they become the ones in need of care. But taking on the role of a caregiver for a parent came be challenging for some who have moved away for their studies or jobs. This is where the 'Granny Pod' can come in as a heaven-sent for those wishing to keep their aging parents nearby.

Source: Getty Images

The Granny Pod, aka the MEDCottage or in-law cottage, is basically a tiny home and portable hospital room in one. Created by a Blacksburg, VA, company with the help of Virginia Tech, the MEDCottage is promoted as an affordable alternative to placing your aging parent in a nursing home. The units are designed to be installed in your backyard and according to Country Living, these pre-fabricated Granny Pods are pretty much guest houses with a number of high-tech medical accessories.


The website of the company behind the MEDCottage states: The MEDCottage is a mobile, modular medical dwelling designed to be temporarily placed on a caregiver's property for rehabilitation and extended care. Simply stated, it's a state-of-the-art hospital room with remote monitoring available so caregivers and family members have peace of mind knowing they are providing the best possible care. Close proximity is so important when keeping family engaged in our life. This solution provides a beautiful dwelling close to the people we love. 


Each unit of the MEDCottage comes with space for a bed, living room space, bathroom, and a kitchenette. However, what makes it the perfect accommodation option for aging parents are a set of standard safety features installed in it, including hand railings, defibrillators, lighted floorboards, first aid supplies, and a soft floor to minimize any potential injuries caused by falls. As for the size of a Granny Pod, at about 12 by 24 feet, they are essentially the size of a master bedroom. Also, with double French doors and the ability to facilitate a wheelchair and vital hospital equipment, the MEDCottage is perfect for those wishing to take care of their parents in their final years.

Source: MEDCottage

The MEDCottage comes in three variations: the LivingROO, MotherShip, and the MEDCottage Classic Redesign. The LivingROO comes a kit that can be assembled by the homeowners themselves and has been designed to fit inside a two-bay garage space. However, the idea of living inside a garage can be claustrophobic to some and keeping this in mind, the portable units come with HD monitor windows connected to an HD camera outside which create the illusion of looking outside.


Meanwhile, the MotherShip or the Rehabilitation Pod is ideal for those concerned about zoning laws. These units are designed to fit on an RV platform and the creators claim such pods "can be placed in ninety percent of the municipalities in the US". The MEDCottage Classic Redesign is designed to resemble the main house except for the fact that they come as kits that can be assembled. As for the subject of whether these portable pods are legal, the AARP states that they fall under the category of ADU (accessory dwelling units).


As they are connected to the main residence's existing sewer, water, and power lines, you will require approval from local agencies in charge of these provisions before you can install a Granny Pod in your backyard. Also, keep in mind that the zoning laws in your locality could have mandates about the size of such structures, so be sure to look into those as well. Those considering investing in such units should also know that they don't come cheap. Financial planner Carolyn McClanahan spoke about this subject to CNBC, during which she stated that although they are expensive, they make financial sense in the long run.


"If people can age in place and age at home it’s much healthier, and the family is happier, but it can be very expensive. Granny pods can cost anywhere from $100,000 to $250,000. So you got to weigh longevity in there with it." However, these pods do make financial sense in the long run when compared to the cost of assisted living care. On the other hand, McClanahan clarifies that such pods aren't a viable option for "someone with dementia or in need of help with daily tasks," said McClanahan. While they do sound like a great option for those wishing to have their parents live near them, some have pointed out a potential pitfall in ADUs for those in need of care.


Building industry consultant, Jane Marie O'Connor said, "One key element that can still be missing would be human contact. Living in or near the home of an adult child who is likely gone all day provides little or no stimulation if there is no opportunity for socialization, which many assisted-living facilities are good at providing. Make the choice with thoughtful purpose, and don’t plan to just park somebody there. Plan how to help her stay engaged in the wider community. And don’t forget that at-home health care always takes a toll on the caregiver. Again, plan ahead for support and relief from care duties." 

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