Small cottage

I’m 66 Years Old and I Live in my Daughter’s Backyard.

It is customary in many countries for generations of families to live together. Many times grandparents move in with families and help take care of the kids. In exchange, elders get the love and care they need for their tired bodies. Because Americans tend to break the traditions of their ancestral homelands but still care for their elders, they’ve adapted a new way of “multi-generational” living. This new adaptation goes by many names but allows for families to stay close while maintaining their own space.  

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What is a “Granny Pod”?

A couple in Seattle designed a small home in their backyard known as the “granny pod” for their aging loved ones. Because most retirees live on a fixed income there are limited places where they can live. The rising cost of competitive housing rates in larger cities are not feasible for someone on a fixed income. However, the desire to be near children and grandchildren increases with age so many younger couples looking for homes with an in-law unit, or enough space on the property to design and build their own version. These add-on apartments are typically designed with features that make elderly living more manageable. 

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Meredith Stannard with her family posing outside of her "Granny Pod"
Image Credit: MATT HAGEN | Country Living

What Motivated the Change?

At 66 years old, Meredith Stannard and her life partner Elyse Zandonella, aged 69, chose to downsize from their 1,300 sq ft home into a smaller, 613 sq ft cottage in the backyard of their daughter’s house. Drew, Meredith’s daughter, shares her home in Seattle with her husband Jacob. The couple, aged 33 and 37 decided to knock down an old 1960’s garage. In its place, they had constructed a tiny 600 sq ft cottage for the elderly couple to move into.

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Inside Meredith Stannard's Granny Pod. Her kitchen
Image Credit: MATT HAGEN | Country Living

Meredith retired from her job in West Seattle and wanted to stay near the people she loves most. Elyse and Meredith began planning for retirement and agreed that they would need to eliminate a mortgage payment in order to live comfortably and still travel the way they wanted to. They still have a vacation home in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where the elderly couple chooses to spend their summer months. Because Drew is an only child and very close to her mother, the retired couple wanted somewhere with access close by. The “granny pod” was the perfect solution!

Read: Goodbye Nursing Homes? New Trend: CoHousing With Friends!

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Finding the Perfect Home.

Drew and Jacob found an adorable home built in 1910 to purchase. They believed at first that the property was too small to add an additional unit to. However, after many discussions between each couple, and a few group chats, they came to the conclusion that the garage built in the 1960s could go. This would give them the space they needed to create a cozy little space for Meredith and Elyse to enjoy their years in retirement together.

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Image Credit: MATT HAGEN | Country Living

It was of the utmost importance to everyone that Jacob was on board and comfortable with the decisions being made. When he gave his approval, it was time for deconstruction to begin. After it was clear that everyone involved was on board, they contacted an architect and began to design the adorable little cottage.

Read: Mom and daughter buy tent after being rejected by 70 rental homes

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Meet the Team.

They met with an architect to begin the designs. Bruce Parker, who owns Microhouse, specializes in “granny pods” and was happy to meet with the family. Bruce estimates that these “granny pods” and other similar structures make up about 10 percent of his business. His company has a reputation for not only creating beautiful and functional tiny homes but also ensuring the safety of people as they get older. They incorporate features like grab bars and hospital-style bathrooms.

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Fortunately, Meredith and Elyse are both in great shape and don’t require this kind of assistance, which gave them more freedom in their designs. They wanted the new “granny pod” and the main home to be similar in design while still reflecting the style of each respective couple. After creating a design that worked for everyone, they found a contractor, Viking Construction Services. Construction began in May of 2016 and continued until November of that same year.

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Inside Meredith Stannard's Granny pod, her bedroom
Image Credit: MATT HAGEN | Country Living

The elderly couple became friends with their contractor, Joe. He followed Bruce’s designs as closely as possible while also adding a few little surprises such as a bench for the breakfast nook and additional shelving for the couple’s many cookbooks. The couple now lives happily in their two-story, 613 sq ft cottage. 

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Some Pros and Cons of a “Granny Pod”.

As a child of a disabled parent, I know the stresses and struggles that come up in everyday living. Their wellbeing is always a concern but having them close by provides invaluable peace of mind. Hiring caregivers is easier to do when the workload can be shared amongst yourself, spouse, children, and professionals. This ensures your loved one is always in good hands and prevents anyone from becoming burnt out.

Another huge plus is the guidance, wisdom, and memories your children can gain from this setup. Children learn to respect their elders and appreciate the culture and history of their ancestors. There is much to consider when making a choice like this, many things should be weighed including personal relationship dynamics, health and hygiene needs, scheduling conflicts etc. Some downsides may be that your family will have less weekend or travel flexibility, you may not be fully aware of the needs of your parents, or your family may feel as though their space is being impeded upon.

Ensuring that you have a plan in writing that everyone has signed will eliminate confusion in regards to boundaries or who’s financially responsible for certain aspects, and will inadvertently give everyone a chance to work together to make it a happy environment for each family member. 

The people they love are some of life’s most precious gifts. After all, our parents send us on our way into the world, hopefully from a place that is loving and compassionate. The least we can do is complete the circle of life and give them a space that is comfortable, fun, and close by, where they can reside in their remaining years. A “Granny Pod”, also known as an in-law suite or even guesthouse, is an ideal way to accomplish this. 

Keep Reading: This couple’s son didn’t want to put them in a nursing home. So he came up with a secret plan to surprise them with.

Sources

  1. Multigenerational households: The Ins and outs of in-law suites. Weighing the Drawbacks and Benefits of Multigenerational Living.” AgingCare. February 2021.
  2. This Is What It’s Really Like to Live In Your Daughter’s Backyard.” Country Living. Maria Carter. November 7, 2017.
  3. What is an in-law suite?The Spruce. Erica Puisis. September 6, 2022.
Leah Berenson
Freelance Writer
Leah is driven by learning and adventure. She has studied Journalism, Early Human Development, and Culinary Arts. When she’s not writing she can be found reading or hiking the Southwest.
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