THIS may appear to be a good alternative … it is all very well but …
IS this falling into the hands of the developers, real estate agents and even some academics who are out there blaming “older Australians” for aiding and abetting our housing crisis?
VIEW: Are Older Australians to Blame for Booming House Prices? When will the Media be able to tell the truth?
IS this about pushing the idea of DOWNSIZING to suit the motives of others, promoting the redevelopment of the family home for medium and high-density housing?
IS this part of the blame game to shift the focus onto others allowing the developers more scope to solve the problem for they must at all costs avoid a ‘whole of community solution’ to housing availability and affordability
AS for the TINY HOUSE idea … it is cute but imagine an older person trying to access a loft bed area?
BESIDES, it seems it was designed to accommodate only ONE (1) PERSON, again the assumption is older Australians are ‘on their own’ maybe they are, in other ways, with others hell-bent on marginalising them, and getting their hands on their assets!
Octogenarian’s tailor-made tiny house offers a retirement home alternative
While Australia reels from stories of malpractice in the aged care sector, perched petitely in regional Victoria is a house that could serve as an alternative model to a retirement home.
It’s Merle’s house — her tiny house, to be precise.
“I’m 82 years old and I can manage this easily, and I don’t have to depend on carers,” she says.
“I am completely independent.”
A tour inside Merle’s home
Merle moved into the tiny house earlier this year, and she hasn’t looked back.
Roughly 7 by 2.5 metres in dimension, her light-filled residence sits on her family’s country property.
But Merle’s home is completely self-contained, and it’s tailor-made to suit her specific physical requirements.
It has an entrance ramp leading to the home’s veranda, assistive bathroom rails in the shower alcove and touch-open cupboard doors.
There is underfloor heating and a hydraulic bed that she can raise with the press of a button during the day — revealing a couch underneath.
All for a price tag of around $150,000.
“I love the living, I love the warmth. I’m warmer here than I ever was in Queensland,” Merle says.
“There’s nothing in this home that isn’t great, and I love the half-hour of housework instead of four bedrooms.”
The house that Chris built
Chris Wenban — who isn’t of retirement age — also lives in a tiny house, next door to Merle.
She runs a tiny house construction company and, along with her business partner, built both homes.
She says she became “quite obsessed” with tiny homes for primarily environmental reasons, which eventually prompted her to move into one herself.
“I like efficiency. I like the idea of not having as big an impact on the environment and not having to spend as much money on housing,” she says.
She says there’s a common misconception that a tiny house is a just a fancy caravan.
But there are major points of difference in a tiny house.
“The look and the feel and the sense of space is completely different,” Ms Wenban says.
“My lowest ceiling height downstairs, because I have a loft bedroom, is two metres high in the kitchen and the bathroom.”
She sleeps in a loft that’s around a metre high. Her three-metre kitchen is full-size, as is her gas oven, and a “little, secret table” can be pulled out to make an office space.
She has a composting toilet, with solids that are emptied every three months into a nearby compost bin. Nasty pathogens are then killed off over the course of a year, before the resulting fertiliser is spread onto the garden.
“Most people advise putting it on fruit trees and not on your vegetable garden, because you don’t want to have that conversation with your dinner guests,” Ms Wenban says.
Fleeing a natural disaster — with your home
Both women’s houses are in Kinglake West, facing a ridge where, nine years after the Black Saturday bushfires, lifeless trunks are a grim reminder of how many people lost their lives in the small community.
In this context, a tiny home on wheels offers benefits that extend beyond sustainability.
“We permanently have a vehicle on site that will be able to pull the tiny houses out,” Ms Wenban says.
“Because they are on wheels, you can do that.
“So, our fire plan is, essentially, if we were in a situation where we thought that there was a fire that had started nearby, we could very easily just hook them up and pull them out.”
She says tiny houses are advantageous not only in the event of bushfires, but flooding too.
Surge in older buyers of tiny homes
Ms Wenban has taken her tiny constructions to home shows and farming expos, and says she’s surprised by the demographic of potential buyers she meets there.
“I would say about 20 or 30 per cent of those people are older people, either looking for themselves for the future [or for their] elderly parents,” she says.
“Everyone wants to look after their parents but the reality of having another family member living in your own house can be quite stressful.”
Tiny houses allow older people to live independently from a main household, but close to people who can keep an eye out for them.
“For a lot of people who get older it’s not [that] they need a high degree of care or that they can’t live independently anymore,” Ms Wenban says.
Rather, “two or three small things start adding up”, she says, like needing a stair-free home, or someone to monitor medication or a proper diet.
She believes these things alone “aren’t necessarily a great reason to go into an old people’s home”.
Ms Wenban says Merle is an example of someone successfully opting for a tailored tiny home over accommodation in an institution.
“Merle’s very independent,” Ms Wenban says.
“She has a separate physical space and it’s hers and people have to knock on the door when they come in.
“She continues her lifestyle as she normally would, getting up when she wants, eating when she wants, eating what she wants, and has very much that sense of independence.
“It’s very much her home.”
But if Merle needs a hand with a meal or to be run down to the shops, help is easily accessible.
Plus, says Ms Wenban, “it’s often good for your mental health when you’re around family, people who are going to check on you regularly”.
She believes we’ll see more living arrangements like Merle’s in the future.
“As councils realise that this is an alternative to people going in to old people’s homes, I think it will become more recognised, permitted and accepted,” she says.
“[A tiny house] can extend people’s ability to live independently for an extra number of years.”