Source 2: Elder Cottages
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Source 2: Elder Cottages


By Leah Dobkin

Sometimes referred to as a granny flat, an elder cottage is a factory-built, self-contained, energy-efficient, aesthetically appealing dwelling specially designed for older adults and people with disabilities. It is normally placed on the property of a family member’s home.

Elder cottages are not mobile homes, but they’re built with a modular design that makes them easy to move. They must meet building codes, and they need zoning approval.

In some areas, elder cottages are called ECHO housing because they can be designed to look like a smaller version of the main house to maintain the character of the community.

An Affordable Housing Option

Elder cottages allow older adults to remain in a familiar community, with the support and security they need from family. They offer both privacy and proximity, so seniors can maintain their independence. 

Aging and housing professionals have become interested in elder cottages because they:

  • Use land more efficiently to expand housing stock in a low-density approach.

  • Are an affordable housing option enabling older clients to spend less on housing and more on needed services.

  • Prevent costly premature institutionalization, allowing people to remain longer in the least restrictive environment.

  • Promote intergenerational living and tap into existing informal support systems.

How You Can Help

If your community is experiencing a shortfall in affordable housing, you may want to consider exploring elder cottages for your older clients. Here are some steps to take:

  • Research local zoning ordinances to see if elder cottages are legal. If not, you might consider mobilizing a grassroots effort to change the rules.

  • Find a local manufacturer to test the market for elder cottages in your area.

  • Collaborate with a nonprofit housing organization to offer low-interest loans and other inducements to make elder cottages a viable housing alternative.

Any reputable modular manufacturer in the United States can duplicate an elder cottage, says Ed Guion, a provider of affordable cottages for over 25 years. Based in Elliottsburg, PA, Guion has sold more than 150 units in the northeast.

He’s willing to share his blueprints at no cost with other reputable manufacturers. “Although I’m not as active as I used to be, I am still pleased to be called upon to work in any way I can to see this form of affordable senior housing stay a viable option,” he says.

Leah Dobkin is a freelance writer and consultant with over 30 years experience developing and managing innovative programs for older adults.


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