Family caregivers just might have another option to explore besides assisted living or a nursing home for a loved one with dementia. Tiny houses – generally homes that are about 100 to 400 square feet – have become more popular due to TV shows such as “Tiny House Hunters” and the trend toward living more simply. Tiny houses are available in all shapes and sizes and may be parked on land with a larger home or in a community that allows them.

The cost to buy and maintain a tiny house varies depending on where it’s located, but the average cost is $23,000 if built by the homeowner and twice that if constructed by a builder.[1] The majority of tiny house owners don’t carry a mortgage and have minimal maintenance costs compared to those of a larger house. And while some tiny houses are set on a foundation, others are on wheels and easily mobile.

Compared to the cost of assisted living or a nursing home, the tiny home can be a very affordable option for a senior. If the tiny house is located next to the family’s home, family members can easily check in on the older adult while still allowing him/her privacy and independence. However, there are a number of important considerations:

  • Zoning: Many towns and cities limit where tiny houses can be built or parked. Since zoning and building codes vary from town to town, it’s important to do some research first into what is allowed. Some cities, such as St. Petersburg, classify tiny homes as accessory dwellings that can be parked on the same lot as an existing house as long as the lot is at least 5,800 square feet.[2] Other towns are more restrictive.
  • Design. Some tiny homes have lofts and ladders, which can be unsafe for a person with dementia. The home’s layout should take into account the senior’s mobility and cognitive issues.
  • How long can you realistically expect that the tiny house will meet the senior’s needs, especially if he/she has dementia? It’s also important to consider whether living in a tiny house gives the person enough opportunities for socialization and recreation.

As with any transition issue, consulting a geriatric care manager first can give you a valuable perspective on whether a tiny house would be suitable for an aging adult.