The Ultimate Guide to Planning an ADU for Your Aging Parents

June 8, 2023

As our aging parents start to require more assistance, many families face the difficult decision of how to best accommodate their needs. While moving them into your home may not always be practical, there’s an increasingly popular alternative that provides loved ones with their own space while also staying nearby: accessory dwelling units (ADUs). These backyard cottages or small apartments offer numerous benefits and can be designed specifically for elderly living. In this post, we’ll explore how to plan an ADU for aging parents and highlight some of the reasons why this option may be the perfect solution for your family.

  1. Introduction to ADU house for aging parents

Definition of ADU house

An ADU house, also known as an accessory dwelling unit, is a self-contained living space that is located on the same property as a single-family home. This type of dwelling is typically smaller in size than the main house, and it often features a separate entrance, kitchen, bathroom, sleeping area, and living space. According to ADU experts, ADU houses offer families a flexible housing option that can provide elderly relatives with independence and dignity while also promoting multigenerational living and lower living expenses. As Acton ADU states, "with an ADU house, you can give your aging parent a safe, comfortable, and convenient place to live that is close to family, friends, and familiar surroundings." 

Importance of giving aging parents independence and dignity

As our parents age, it's important to give them the independence and dignity they deserve. Moving them into our own homes may not always be feasible, but building an ADU house in our backyard is a great option to retain their sense of autonomy. Tracy Turner, a social worker and bereavement counselor, emphasizes the importance of offering an array of options regarding small daily things as well as drawing on our parents' life experience and wisdom. Through these efforts, we can show our aging parents that we still view them as accomplished individuals who deserve to be treated with respect and dignity in their golden years. 

Reasons to build an ADU house for aging parents

Retaining independence and dignity

Retaining independence and dignity is crucial for aging parents. With an ADU house, they have a separate home to call their own, where they can decorate and arrange as they choose. They'll have the freedom to prepare their meals, invite friends over, and enjoy the privacy of their own space. As their independence declines, you can arrange for caregivers to come in and help them with anything they find challenging. By bringing your aging parents into a backyard cottage, you alleviate most of their concerns, and they can enjoy a more manageable home to clean. Moreover, an ADU home is designed with their safety in mind, giving them a purpose-built dwelling for comfortable aging in place. 

Convenience and accessibility for caregivers

One of the significant benefits of planning an ADU for aging parents is the convenience and accessibility it provides for caregivers. With an ADU on their property, adult children can keep a close eye on their elderly parents while still allowing them the independence they desire. As ADU experts, "ADUs offer a more affordable and available housing option. This provides three main benefits: bringing family closer, saving money on nursing home expenses, and allowing the individual to maintain some level of independence." Additionally, caregivers can benefit from having their aging parents close by, making it easier to provide care and assistance as needed. 

Lower living expenses for parents

Lower living expenses for aging parents is a key benefit of building an ADU house. Many seniors live on a fixed income and struggle to cover the expenses of a larger family home. By moving into a smaller ADU house, they can cut their expenses significantly, paying less for utilities and maintenance, and benefitting from the yard without paying for it. This can also help alleviate the financial burden on adult children who may otherwise be paying for their parents' living expenses. As AARP Vice President Rodney Harrell states, "It's a creative option in the neighborhood people want to live in." 

Purpose-built dwelling with safety in mind

Purpose-built dwelling with safety in mind is a key reason to build an ADU house for aging parents. These structures are designed with accessibility, mobility, and safety in mind. Accessible bathrooms, kitchens, and wide doorways ensure that your parents can move freely and independently, without the risk of tripping or falling. Moreover, custom-made accessible homes provide features that are attuned to the specific needs and limitations of aging individuals. Alan DeLaTorre, Age-Friendly Program manager in Portland, Oregon, says that ADUs built with mobility in mind allow people to stay connected to their communities and live independently, providing the peace of mind that comes with the knowledge that your elderly parents are safe and secure. 

Individuality and personalization

Choosing to build an ADU for aging parents doesn't mean sacrificing individuality and personalization. With a purpose-built dwelling, you have the opportunity to create a space that meets your parent's unique needs and preferences. "Your parent can also contribute ideas and items that will help them feel at home. From choosing the flooring and wall colors to adding personal touches like family photos and artwork, you can work together to make the space feel like their own. Plus, with a separate home to decorate and arrange as they choose, your aging parent can retain their independence and dignity. 

Multigenerational living with privacy

Multigenerational living with privacy is a concept that has been gaining momentum in recent years. ADUs provide an opportunity for aging parents to live independently in close proximity to their adult children and grandchildren. Such living arrangements can help families stay connected and provide emotional and practical support to one another. ADUs offer privacy and the ability to maintain individuality while still being part of a family unit. 

Use of universally adapted features for comfortable aging in place

Universally adapted features are an essential aspect of designing an ADU for aging parents. Lever-style door handles, non-slip surfaces, and strategically placed handrails are a few of the features that can make aging in place more comfortable and safer. Accessible thresholds, induction cooktops, and user-friendly hardware can also be incorporated into the design to accommodate individuals with cognitive disabilities and dementia. Furthermore, dimmer and/or sensor-controlled lighting can assist people with ocular sensitivities or physical impairments.

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