By Glenn Baja

It’s a sensitive topic: what to do with our aging parents? Granny pods are the latest trend in senior living, allowing seniors to live close to their children but still have the independence of being in their own space. Granny pods offer a great solution for families who don’t want to put their elders in retirement or nursing homes but also want to maintain privacy by not having their parents living under the same roof.

A granny pod marries independence and privacy with safety, proximity to family, and potentially significantly lower cost than a room or suite in a retirement home. They are ideal for seniors who are completely independent and just want to downsize and live close to their kids; or disabled seniors who don’t need round-the-clock care and want some measure of independence.

What Is A Granny Pod?

Officially, granny pods are called ADUs or accessory dwelling units – but ‘granny pod’ has much more personality and charm. Typically around 400-600 square feet, they are designed to house one or two people. While technologically advanced on the inside, they are cozy, functional, and often built in an attractive cottage or bungalow style.

Grannie pods from CNBC.

A granny pod is a tiny house (sometimes called a backyard house or mother-in-law cottage) that is placed or built on the same property as the caregiver’s home. Sewer, water, electricity, and gas are shared with the main house.

The following videos will give you a better idea of how granny pod living can be a great choice for seniors:

How Are Granny Pods Different From Tiny Houses?

Granny pods differ from generic tiny houses in that they incorporate the concept of Universal Design. Universal Design is an approach that uses products and features in a home that simplifies life for everyone, including older adults with or without disabilities, at little or no extra cost. This includes one-story living, wider wheelchair-accessible spaces, raised toilets, walk-in showers, ramps, grab bars and railings, good lighting, and slip-resistant or cushioned floors.

Many come equipped with:

  • Medical devices such as first aid kits, defibrillators or ADL assistance such as special bath fixtures and automatic ceiling lifts.
  • Smart technology: HVAC, lighting, door locks, webcams, and two-way communication are often installed to facilitate comfort and communication between the occupant and the caregiver.
  • Health monitoring that tracks movement and vital signs and communicates with caregivers.

Like any tiny home, granny pods are very homey. Typically single-story, granny pods have a kitchen area, bath (usually with a walk-in shower and raised toilet), dining/living space and a main-level bedroom or sleeping space. Storage features are easily accessible. Usually, storage is built-in, minimizing the need for storage furniture such as dressers. Storage is limited in tiny homes, often a welcome opportunity to downsize excessive possessions.

Granny pods can be manufactured off-site and installed on-site, or built from scratch. Depending on the situation, you may need to consider a prefab home since building from scratch can take many months.

Most granny pods are completely mobile. Like most other tiny homes, they are built on trailer beds. Others are built with more permanence in mind, on a foundation.

Are They Legal?

Don’t assume that just because you have the space, you can put a granny pod in your yard. Unfortunately, not all municipalities allow ADUs.

Check with your local zoning authority to find out if you are able to place a pod home on your property. If the answer is no, you may be able to get an exemption by demonstrating a qualifying need. A physician will need to confirm that the occupant has physical or mental impairments that hinder at least two daily activities including eating, dressing, toileting and bathing.

Even if granny pods are allowed where you live, you will still need to get a permit and comply with size restrictions, building codes, special permits, and other regulations.

How Much Do Pods Cost?

Granny pods can cost anywhere from $50,000 to $250,000 depending on the features and size. The features, of course, depend on each family’s unique situation. Not all seniors require constant medical care or special accessories. They may just want to downsize and have “just in case” options for down the road.

To save money, some people convert detached garages, prefab tiny homes, or larger garden sheds into senior-friendly housing.

Where Can You Get Granny Pod Floor Plans?

If you want to custom-build a granny pod, there are several great resources where you can get floor plans or inspiration:

Want to Skip the Granny Pod Floor Plans?


Pod homes give seniors a treasured sense of independence and privacy. Most seniors don’t want to be put in a nursing home. They prefer to be in their own space yet close to family. Granny pods offer a solution for families that have the space to build a comfortable and convenient home for Grandma (and Grandpa!) on their property.

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