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Tiny houses: The next big thing for older adults?

Written by Linda Abbit

Many people downsize when they move to a retirement home. Bette Presley, 72, took that idea to an extreme last year when she moved into her tiny house – a 166-square-foot cabin in the small coastal town of Arroyo Grande, California.

Presley’s home measures just eight by twenty-four feet. It has a built-in platform bed, built-in shelves, space for a narrow table and a loft that accommodates a queen-sized mattress for guests. Her tiny house’s kitchenette is outfitted with a built-in stove and oven, plus a sink and small refrigerator; in the bathroom are a tiny sink, a toilet and a shower. Presley heats and cools her home via a unit on the ceiling.

Bette Presley tiny house

Bette Presley and her tiny house. Photo: Gayle Cuddy/the Tribune

“We are consumers. We buy too much. We don’t need all of our belongings,” Presley told “I just experienced the clutter, to live in excess, and I didn’t find it particularly satisfying.”

Presley is part of the Tiny House movement, whose growing popularity reflects a desire among some Americans to pare down, consume less and enjoy a simpler, more customized home and lifestyle. While the houses are small – any home of less than 1,000 square feet is officially “tiny,” but most range between 100 and 400 – the trend is growing fast; as of last month, there’s even a tiny house TV show: Tiny House Builders premiered on HGTV on December 14.

The Tiny House Movement’s growth is largely among the young and child-free, but it’s gaining momentum among seniors, too; some 40 percent of tiny house owners are over age 50. After all, what better time to downsize, personalize, simplify and save – either alone or by buying a plot with friends and forming a tiny house community? A finished build-it-yourself house averages around $23,000, and plans and kits are available online. To have a house custom built runs around $50,000-$60,000. That’s a few hundred thousand less than a tiny Manhattan apartment and an alternative to a Florida condo.

Tiny houses are for sale in nearly every state and in general, tiny house builders will ship a completed house almost anywhere. Most tinies are located in scenic rural settings, but there are appealing micro-apartments and mini-houses for urban dwellers, too. Currently the only tiny house showcase, Micro Showcase, is located in urban Washington DC (top photo), and in 2010 MEKA, a company that creates modular living solutions and ships them worldwide, dropped a 320-square-foot MEKA show home with a shipping container shell in the middle of NYC’s West Village.


MEKA house, West Village

House styles are limited only by square footage and your imagination – super mod, industrial chic, rustic, luxe or any quirky mashup that suits your personal needs and aesthetic.

This article originally appeared in To read the full story and learn more, visit Senior Planet.


1 Comment

  • …housing prices have become ridiculous while wages and SS retirement benefits have stagnated for many Americans. I remember when full a 2 size BR home in a clean working class neighboruhood was half the price (including lot) quoted above for a custom built Mini Home.

    …and those Mini Apartments, still too expensive for what you get (at least where I live). Instead of downsizing we should be looking at ways to curb astronomical housing increases in central city neighbourhoods for seniors and low income people.

    Crikey these things can easily be loaded onto a flatbed trick or trailer so imagine coming home to find your entire house stolen (or being in it at night when it happens).

    “Walkability factor” is important to us, but sadly, this is now becoming something for the affluent, healthy young (who usually drive anyway) to enjoy. Meanwhile, in my town, we are being pushed out of the city by skyrocketing rents to the outlying burbs where everything is farther apart, transit is poor, street lighting is poor, and in many areas there are no crosswalks or even sidewalks. Developments near transit hubs and LRT stations tend to be just as expensive as those in the city centre.

    We need a better solution than modern one room shacks and “new age shanty towns”.

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