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What’s a Granny Pod and What’s It Doing in the Backyard?

We love the idea of these "nursing homes on wheels"—but what's up with that name?

With 23 million Americans taking care of elderly parents according to AARP estimates, it makes sense that we’d seek innovative ways to house our aging relatives—and then benefit from those breakthroughs when we need housing in our later years. Granny pods might serve both of those needs.

An example of a Granny Pod. Image: medcottage.com

It’s an intriguing idea: A small home (basically what’s called an accessory dwelling unit) designed for older folks that can be installed on their adult children’s property. Originally developed as a mobile, modular nursing home alternative—and dubbed a MEDCottage (the MED is for medical)—these itty-bitty buildings have a lot going for them. Imagine a prefab or custom-built mini home with kitchenette, bed, bath, and potentially beyond, capable of being tricked out with whatever safety, medical and/or monitoring features a senior solo or couple might need.

Sitting right there on your property, connected to the electrical, water, and sewer systems of the main house, it lets you keep tabs on the health and wellbeing of mom and/or dad while allowing them the privacy and respect they deserve. (Local restriction may apply, depending on occupancy ordinances, building codes and zoning laws in your area.)

Granny Pods: The Downside

Peace of mind is priceless, and staying close to family as we age is a wonderful thing, but here are the drawbacks. 

While these cottages aren’t cheap—$30,000 for a basic model and $125,000-plus for a cushy cottage built to your specs—peace of mind is priceless, and staying close to family as we age is a wonderful thing.

Okay, here comes the but. You knew there was going to be one, right? The colloquial moniker given to these abridged abodes: granny pods. What genius came up with such an insulting, offensive term? It sounds about as appealing as tossing late-in-lifers in a doghouse. The female slant is also demeaning: Why “granny pod” when clearly “grandpod” is cleverer? You think those mad marketers went with granny because women tend to outlive men? Ha! Granny pod is a dis, plain and simple—and if I dared mention it to my 89-year-old mom, she’d wash my mouth out with soap!

By Nina Malkin


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