Often when visiting Amish country, especially well-established, older communities where land is more scarce, some homes will look like sprawling Frankenstein mutated dwellings with add-on after add-on after-add on. Those add-ons are often to accommodate growing and or multigenerational families.
The Geauga Maple Leaf newspaper, serving the large Ohio Amish community near Middlefield, wrote this:
It is not unusual in the Amish culture for several generations to live together on one property forming strong family ties. Grandparents help with grandchildren and then, as time goes by, roles often reverse and it is the younger generations looking out for the grandparents.
Other times, you'll notice a small outbuilding or even a trailer on the property. These separate dwellings are often used as a micro-housing for elderly Amish who no longer can care for, or need, a huge homestead. These dwellings are referred to as a "dawdy haus." The literal Pennsylvania German translation of dawdy haus is "Grandpa's House." (sometimes it is spelled "dawdi haus.")
A Dawdy Haus can take many forms, from a separate, attached wing of a main house, or a completely separate dwelling on the property.
👵 Inside an Amish Dawdy Haus
There is no one-size fits all dawdy haus, they vary depending on a family's resources, creativity, and needs.
But typically, a dawdy haus is a simple, one-story building, sometimes, it can consist of a single room. The gold standard would be a sitting room, a bedroom, and perhaps a small kitchen or cooking area. They are often decorated in a traditional Amish style, with simple furniture and no electricity or running water. However, some dawdy hauses may be more modern, with amenities such as electricity and running water especially if those conveniences are seen as fulfilling health needs of an elderly person.
Here are some of the benefits of having a dawdy haus:
- It provides a private space for grandparents to relax and enjoy their retirement.
- It strengthens family ties by allowing grandparents to live with their families.
- It can be used as a guesthouse or a place for unmarried adults to live.
Here are some of the drawbacks of having a dawdy haus:
- It can be expensive to build and maintain.
- It may not be suitable for everyone, as it requires a certain level of independence.
- It can be difficult to find a dawdy haus that is available for rent or purchase. Often an Amish family builds one from scratch on their property.
👴 Do the Amish Ever Move into Nursing Homes or Retirement Homes?
Family is culturally ingrained among the Amish. Family bonds are iron-strong and there is an expectation that when a family member gets older and infirm that the younger generation will step up and take care of their elders. Most Amish come from large families, so someone will almost always take-in an elderly relative and do so happily and graciously.
Are there exceptions? Of course. But they are rare. In around large Amish communities there are often Mennonite-run retirement homes and even some Beachy Amish run facilities that would take in an Amish senior citizen in a culturally senstive way. But such occasions are exceedingly rare.
I know of one elderly Amish man that needed to be on an oxygen pump that required electricity. The family was also worried about the man's ability to withstand the summer heat in a typical non-airconditioned setting, so they moved him into a traditional non-Amish home completely with electricity. The church elders were fine with that as an accommodation.
🍊 Florida Amish Retirement Community
No discussion of where elderly Amish live would be complete without mentioning Pinecraft, Florida. This is a settlement of snowbirds that live in the Pinecraft neighborhood of Sarasota, Florida. Amish of all ages flock to Pinecraft, especially from November to March. But some senior citizen Amish do live there year-round. The climate is warm and temperate and the tiny shotgun homes are far easier to care for than the massive spreads up north.
🙋 FAQ Elderly Amish
I'm not going to say "never", but I will say that such an arrangement would be exceedingly rare. An Amish elderly person that needed extremely advanced around-the-clock medical care might have to go to a nursing home. But this would be rare.
It is a small house where elderly Amish family members reside when they no longer need or can care for a larger homestead.
Again, I'd never say never, but such an arrangement would be rare. But if that were the only way to keep an elderly Amish person on the homestead, it might happen. Chances are a daughter or granddaughter would avail themselves to provide whatever care was needed.