With senior housing being an ever growing topic of conversation in Darien, one new approach just might make its way into town. Temporary housing for seniors, known by the tongue in cheek name “granny pods”, could offer a solution as space grows short.
A more professional term for the space would be a Med Cottage. The spaces are designed as temporary structures built on the property of a family so that an aging family member can receive necessary support while maintaining a degree of independence. The cottages themselves are small, typically only a few hundred square feet. The Norwalk Hour points to information from AARP saying that more than 700,000 Connecticut residents are currently providing some level of care for an aging parent or infirm family member who continue living in their own homes. The med cottages would help to lower that number without forcing families into options that might not be as desirable.The cottages could also offer a less expensive option than convalescent care.
First Selectman Jayme Stevenson was present at the At Home in Darien Board of Directors annual meeting, when the idea of the med cottages was first mentioned by guest speaker Christianne Kovel. Kovel oversees the legislative activities for aging for the Commission on Women, Children, and Seniors, and cultivates relationships with policymakers, legislative staff and partner organizations to help shape aging policy that supports older adults. Stevenson was optimistic about the prospects for the med cottages in Darien.
Stevenson called the cottages, “an interesting concept,” continuing by saying, “it is essentially modular housing and would need to be permitted and regulated, like all forms of housing, by our Planning and Zoning Commission and other land use boards.” Stevenson tempered her optimism by saying that any steps taken regarding the use of the cottages must be done in by the book, saying, “I’m certainly eager to learn more about the concept and how it could be used thoughtfully and without total disregard for our zoning regulations.”
John Sini, the commissioner of Planning and Zoning, said that the issue needs further study in order to really say if it could work in Darien. “At first glance, they look to be similar to accessory apartments,” said Sini.
Stevenson said, “We haven’t embraced the concept of ‘accessory apartments’ here in Darien,” but was open to that changing, saying, “I would think that should be the first step to helping families create space in their existing homes to care for their aging family members or other loved ones.”
Legislation regarding these structures was put off last year in favor of further study according to the story in the Norwalk Hour. Currently there are four states with regulations that deal with the structures. The legislative session begins on Jan. 4, and faces extraordinary fiscal challenges to say the least, as legislators work to close a massive deficit.