Daryl Whitaker can take comfort in knowing that her grandmother, Shirley Shear, is nearby — as close as her backyard.
The 88-year-old, twice-widowed Shear lives behind Whitaker’s home in Tampa, Fla., in a former family guesthouse and game room.
Shear, who owned a home in nearby Lakeland, Fla., for 50 years, fell and developed a blood clot two years ago. She couldn’t afford full-time home care and she couldn’t keep her beloved dog, Sugar, in an assisted-living facility. So Whitaker’s husband, Joe, and their four children gladly gave up their little getaway by the pool in order to make Shear safe and secure.
“It’s fun here as long as I have my dog,” Shear says. “It’s private, but it’s nice to know that the family is nearby if I need them.”
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The Whitakers’ solution reflects a burgeoning homebuilding trend. Popular in Europe, the so-called “granny pods” are just one way families are bringing multiple generations under one household.
Developers have noticed the trend and are building homes that can accommodate seniors, adult children fresh out of college and extended-family members.
When Joe Whitaker asked his friend Henry Moseley Jr. to remodel the guesthouse for Shear, Moseley customized the cottage and realized what a wonderful solution the unit was for seniors who wanted to have their own private space, yet still be close to their family.
He and his son, Henry III, began researching the concept so popular overseas. They decided the solution was a perfect fit in Southwest and Central Florida, two of the largest senior areas in the U.S.
Together, they launched Home Care Suites, a custom-backyard-cottage business designed as an alternative to assisted living.
At a time of high unemployment and home foreclosures, the number of U.S. households in which multiple generations of the same family double up under the same roof has spiked significantly. One in five seniors is part of this trend.
If the rising cost of home health care, assisted living and nursing-home care is any indication, the “granny pod” might be a more affordable option that provides privacy, security and peace of mind for all parties.
According to a national study by Genworth, a provider of long-term-care insurance, the average monthly fee for an assisted-living facility was $3,300 in 2012.
Home Care Suites’ three models can all be customized to suit a senior’s needs and the family’s budget. They range from 256 to 588 square feet. The price varies based on site conditions, ranging from $42,000 to $83,000. The homes can be financed for less than $800 a month.
Depending on the individual’s level of care, each Home Care Suite can be fitted with a customized emergency-response system that monitors everything from daily vital signs to voice prompts, reminders for medication and an automatic call to a family member who’s away from home.
The Whitakers were glad to give their extra space to their grandmother because they didn’t have to drive back and forth to Lakeland.
“We were doing her laundry, cleaning her house, going grocery shopping and we weren’t able to enjoy her,” Daryl Whitaker says. “To pay and trust somebody to come live in your house was extremely scary for us, and we didn’t want to put her in that uncomfortable situation.
“There may come a time when her needs will be greater than what we can provide at home. But until then, this gives her the space, safety and security she needs without giving up her independence.”