To Escape Covid-19, Grandma’s Living in the Backyard

The pandemic has forced many families to make a difficult choice: Should elderly parents stay in retirement communities or nursing homes, or should they be brought to live at home?

Suddenly having mom or dad move in after 50 years living separately may not seem like an ideal situation for everyone’s privacy and sanity. But, by some estimates, more than 40% of deaths from Covid-19 have been of people in nursing homes or residential-living facilities for the elderly. Faced with a difficult choice, families are landing on an alternate solution: Put up a separate, tiny house in their backyard.

That’s what Jen Parsons decided to do in Redwood City, California. A retirement community with lots of activities would have been ideal for Parsons’ widowed mother. “But when Covid-19 hit it was like, what are we thinking?” Parsons said.

So she went with a $230,000 “accessory dwelling unit” or ADU—more commonly known as a granny or in-law flat, alley flat, or coach house. In a few months when the construction is complete, she won’t have to worry about her mother getting home safely after dinner with the family. Her mother, who is in her 70s, will just walk about 15 feet across the backyard to the stylish, 495-square-foot space.

Unlike basic sheds or semi-finished pool houses, these units often have a bedroom area, full kitchen and bathroom. They can be standalone structures or over garages. Some owners rent them out for extra income.