Touting Tiny Domiciles

tiny home is beige siding with white accents and a flowerbed out front

One of my mother’s – and perhaps your mother’s – greatest fears is ending up in a long-term care home. As visitors, we see the activity board and assess the cleanliness of the place. As residents, it must feel like being warehoused.

It’s not that way for everyone, of course. But it is for some. Senior living centres are plopped in our communities but they don’t always integrate with them. The lifestyle is modeled more on the army than on typical family life.

My father lived his last months in a nice home run by (mostly) caring staff who (mostly) did their best. But despite our frequent visits, he also said he experienced loneliness for the first time. PSWs have a difficult job, doing the work a senior’s family members can’t or won’t do. And they have to do it fast and move on to the next resident. They have many challenges, not the least of which is the patients themselves. Governments and long term care home owners have focused more on savings than being saviors.

So, there’s a movement underway to change how we care for seniors. Instead of giant collections of rooms and dining halls, some are being built as mini-communities. In the US, Minka is building 330 sq. ft. homes, give or take, with an aim of creating clusters of a dozen or eighteen homes for seniors with staff on site for assistance. The mind behind Minka is geriatrician Dr. Bill Thomas, who has spent his career trying to improve living spaces for seniors. He says these homes are different from tiny homes. They’re airier, more open, and don’t require the occupant to lift heavy storage covers or pull down a Murphy bed.

You don’t have to be a senior to live in a Minka, or other similar type of home. I’m ready for one now! They really only omit families with children as possible residents. Anyone else can downsize to a Minka whenever they want, even on their current property if there’s room.

Dr. Thomas and his wife have two disabled daughters, and he tells StatNews that they have changed everything about their world view:

“The reason a lot of rich powerful people are such assholes is that they are cloaked in this illusion of invulnerability, and it really makes them jerks. I’m not saying I’m not a jerk, but I am saying that with Haleigh and Hanna I saw just how out of control in this world I really am.”

Dr Bill Thomas in StatNews

One of the stumbling blocks to mass success of Dr. Thomas’s vision is the “assholery” of the wealthy. Perhaps I should be kinder and say, their ostentatious lifestyles. Some believe that older people place too much of an importance on a big, impressive home and would balk at a modest little Minka. But wouldn’t a Minka be better than a hospital bed and a couple of plants?

Now, this is not to say that everyone who wants a big house is an asshole. But there are some people for whom comparisons of “stuff” – including square footage – is a way of life. Let them have the big houses and expenses that go with them.

My north Toronto house had five bedrooms and four bathrooms spread over four floors. It’s not that I was looking for something ridiculously huge for two people, a dog, and a cat. It’s because we lost so many bidding wars, we cast our net wider and this is what we got. (It was the early 2000s) I remember bursting into tears when the realtor called to say it was ours because I couldn’t remember which one it was!

The Minka costs around $200 per square foot. It’s not the only option out there. W.W. Gilman’s Smaller is Smarter communities are occupying former RV parks with the idea that a giant home is a waste. Canadian tiny home builders include Teacup Tiny Homes and Nelson Tiny Houses.

I’m ready. Sign me up and move me in! Less to clean and more to enjoy. And better prepared for whatever life has in store for us in the future.

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