Accessible tiny home helps elderly woman age in place gracefully
This lovely little home was built for a woman who wants to be closer to her loved ones, without losing her autonomy.
It’s no secret that mortgage-free tiny houses are offering a growing number of people greater financial and psychological freedom — whether they are living by themselves, or as couples or even families. But when designed thoughtfully, adaptable tiny houses can be one way for the elderly to keep their independence too, allowing them to gracefully age in place. To see how it might be done, take a tour via Living Big in a Tiny House of this lovely tiny house that’s made with those who are older or might have mobility issues in mind:
Built by Tiny Footprint’s co-founder Ferne for her mother, Merle, the 23.5-foot by 8-foot Fernelea tiny house is actually located on Ferne’s farm in Victoria, Australia, close to the family home. Merle, who had been previously living in a three-storey home, wanted to live closer to her daughter and grandchildren, but was also set on having her own space where she didn’t have to depend on anybody else.
To help preserve that autonomy, great care was taken to ensure that the tiny home was safe and accessible, in anticipation of when Merle might someday need a wheelchair to get around. To do that, the design incorporates a big ramp out front, wide entrances with no trip hazards, as well as lowered kitchen countertops that are more ergonomic for a maturing Merle.
Wherever possible, automation has been introduced to make things easier: the induction stove automatically turns off when pots are removed; the elevator bed moves up and down with the push of a button, revealing a sitting area and soft-touch cabinets for storage; plus, the verandah features a motorized system for the blinds.
To free up space, transformer furniture has been put in, like the under-sofa storage and the rolling fold-up table that Merle sits at for eating and using her computer.
In addition, the 23.5-foot by 10.5-foot verandah helps to extend the usable space, and is protected from the elements with transparent but sturdy acrylic panels. It’s here that Merle has her crafting area, and it’s also here that the whole family of three generations can gather during evenings to spend time with one another.
The bathroom also has been carefully considered with Merle’s needs in mind: the toilet is specially made for the elderly, while there are grab bars and a seat built into the shower.
All told, the materials, construction, site work and landscaping cost about USD $100,000 (AUD $140,000). As Merle notes, she preferred to spend the money to construct a tiny house, rather than sink her savings into a piece of land and a bigger house that would be difficult and costly to maintain later on. By choosing a tiny house instead, she’s now able to remain independent, while still staying close to her loved ones — a big factor for many elderly people when it comes to aging happily.