"Granny Pods" A New Choice for Elderly Living

February 7, 2013

When 88-year-old Viola Baez's husband passed away last year, her daughter had a tough decision to make when it came to caring for her aging mother. Baez made it clear she did not want to live in a nursing home so the family looked into buying MEDCottage. Commonly called a "Granny Pod" the 300 square foot trailer was placed in the family's backyard in Alexandria several months later, ready for Baez to move in.

There was one problem, though. Baez didn't want to live in the MEDCottage. She had her own nickname for it: "The dog house".

"It's a little different," Baez's daughter, Soc Page admits. "If there was any way we could have added on to the house, we would have, but we couldn't."

The MEDCottage is designed by a Blacksburg-based company called N2Care, with help from engineers at Virginia Tech. The MEDCottage is essentially a portable hospital room and a long-term care housing option for seniors. N2Care's chief executive officer, Kenneth Dupin, is also a Pastor, and says the idea for the design came to him after spending years visiting elderly people in nursing homes.

"It's placed on the caregiver's property so they can be in close proximity to their family," Dupin said. "One of the things we discovered in our research is as we age, we instinctively desire to be closer to our family."

Even people with serious medical conditions can live in a MEDCottage. "Everything from blood pressure, to glucose, to weight, to congestive heart failure can be addressed in here," Dupin said. "As time goes by and we continue to develop, it could be an ICU."

The MEDCottage even caters to the bedridden, with a trapeze-type of track running across the ceiling.

"The third highest reason people lose their independence is because their caregiver can't keep them mobile," Dupin said. "You can take them all the way from the bed, into the bathroom, into the shower, and all of that is possible either with what we think of has a trapeze hook or a swing."

Baez can move around her MEDCottage with the help of a walker, but her family doesn't have to worry, knowing her home is designed to met her needs.

"I like the floor, the way it's made is very spring to absorb the impact if she were to fall," Page said. The Pages also had low level floor lights installed along the walls of Baez's structure so she can see if she wakes up in the night and needs to use the bathroom. The shower is specially designed so it's easy to get in and out of, and the temperatures are set so Baez can't accidentally burn herself. The thermostat is also controlled. Another option in the MEDCottage is motion detectors and even cameras to track movement. All of the features are controlled by a command center that can be operated through an Ipad.

A basic model is priced around $40,000 but that cost can go upwards of $200,00 depending on the amenities installed. Currently, Virginia is one of eleven states to pass legislation allowing the structures to exist on residential properties.

Baez has grown to love her new home, and says the best part about it is being so close to her family. She leaves her MEDCottage to walk into her daughter's house every evening for family dinner.

"Basically it has everything she needs to be more independent," said Page.


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