5 Reasons to Build an Auxiliary Dwelling Unit for an Elderly Loved One

Elderly parents need help, so their children keep them close enough to lend a hand.

And those numbers are only rising. Today, there are approximately 901 million people over the age of 60. That number is expected to rise to nearly 2.1 billion by 2050.

With over 34.2 million Americans acting as unpaid caregivers to their elderly relatives, families need help both financially and functionally to offer the care, support, and safety our elderly family members need.

If predictions are correct, that means approximately 79.8 million Americans will be providing care by 2050.

With over 34.2 million Americans acting as unpaid caregivers to their elderly relatives, families need help both financially and functionally to offer the care, support, and safety our elderly family members need.

That’s why the accessory dwelling unit (ADU) has become so popular. It’s convenient, affordable, and a long-term multi-purpose investment for both homeowners and their parents, and we’ll show you why. If you’re ready to find out whether one is right for you, read on.

Dwelling Unit Benefits

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) sometimes called mother-in-law units, in-law cottages, or granny flats. No matter what, hey all mean the same thing. They’re small, separate dwellings, located behind your single family house.

ADU design is very important, as with any smaller space. So, keep in mind, if you’re designing an accessory dwelling unit, you need to know what features and best practices will make them great. It’s the only way to be sure you reap all the dwelling unit benefits for you and your folks. Fortunately, they’re pretty straightforward, so get ready to jot down some notes.


You can feel alone among a crowd of people. That’s because loneliness isn’t derived from the proximity of other humans. It comes from a feeling of emotional or social isolation, a lack of connectedness.

Unfortunately, it’s one of the biggest complaints of the elderly, and it’s often paired with depression. The brutal combination increases major health risks.

  • Heart attacks
  • Functional decline
  • Blood pressure
  • Likelihood of serious illness

In-law units easily combat this problem. When you have your elderly relatives living on your property, you can stay an active part of their lives.

You can visit over coffee in the morning or stop by for lunch. You can share a potluck for dinner, or simply have your kids run and give their grandma a hug before school. It’s all about making them a part of your family life.

Their proximity makes it all possible. That proximity isn’t always easy in today’s world. You could live in the same city as your parents but need to drive half an hour just to see them.

Difficulty Driving

Another major complaint in the elderly population is the inability to drive. Some can’t drive because of their poor eyesight or degrading special awareness. Others have trouble passing the written portion of their driver’s test.

Whatever the reason, many elderly folks either feel uncomfortable getting behind a steering wheel or simply aren’t allowed to. That’s why amazing children, like you, step in and offer to drive them places. Unfortunately, it’s rarely convenient.

That is, of course, unless your parents live next door. When you house them on your property, you can nip by whenever you’re headed out to see if they need anything. You can also get them out of the house more often because you ask more frequently.

Their driving difficulties are also a key factor in loneliness and depression. If they can’t drive, it’s difficult to meet up with family and friends. You take that out of the equation when the live next door.

Then you and your kids can connect with them often and get them out of the house.

Decreased Maintenance

One of the other main reasons accessory units work so well for elderly relatives is the decrease in physical chores. Mowing the lawn, taking the garbage cans to the curb, fixing the sink, they’re all chores that grow more difficult with age. In many cases they aren’t just difficult, they’re impossible. It’s a problem we hear every day.

When you ask your relatives to come to live with you, you take those responsibilities off their plate. They no longer have to pay someone to complete the chores or try to do them themselves. That’s an enormous relief.

Still Self-Reliant

One of the other biggest complaints made by elderly folks is the frustration that comes along with losing their self-reliance. Sometimes this comes in the form of a revoked driver’s license. Other times, it’s in the form of their inability to walk around the block or get out of the chair unaided.

Many of these issues you can’t completely eliminate, but you can decrease their severity. Your mom might not need a full-time nurse, if you can pop next door to help her get out of bed in the morning, that’s a tremendous change for your loved ones quality of life. Your dad may appreciate your morning walks together instead of resenting his inability to navigate the block safely.

Give your elderly relatives a chance to live on their own terms—their own rules, their own furniture, their own house. Let them be self-reliant. You’re only a shout away if they need help.


It’s not just about solutions for your parents. It’s also about solutions for you. Did you know that elderly care facilities can cost more than $92,000 annually? That’s an expense most families can’t afford. And it’s money that’s spent and lost forever.

When you build an in-law unit, you still face a substantial upfront cost. The amount varies depending on the type of unit you build, the materials you choose, and your location, and a dozen other considerations. We recommend you speak with a local accessory dwelling unit contractor before you make any final decisions.

The best part of building a granny flat is, of course, housing your elderly relatives. The second-best part is that the structure increases the value of your house. In essence, it’s an apartment.

Whenever you decide to sell your house, you can recoup upfront costs. Or you can rent, or share with other family. The possibilities are numerous.

What’s Next?

Now that you know what makes in-law dwelling units so popular, it’s time to consider your options. First, take a look at your property and figure out where you might put your unit. Speak with your city or county planning department for starters, or reach out to an ADU professional. Get the conversation started, with your spouse, your contractor, or finally your elderly relatives.

It’s going to take input to make a final decision.

Did this article answer your questions? If so, hop over to our excellent library full of other ADU articles.

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