At 88, Viola Baez is an unlikely pioneer. But as the first first private inhabitant of a MedCottage, she's the reluctant resident of a shed-size dwelling that may offer an attractive balance between independence and special care for some of the 72 million Americans who will be 65 or older in less than twenty years, reports Fredrick Kunkle.
"The MedCottage, designed by a Blacksburg company with help from Virginia Tech, is essentially a portable hospital room. Virginia state law, which recognized the dwellings a few years ago, classifies them as 'temporary family health-care structures.' But many simply know them as 'granny pods,' and they have arrived on the market as the nation prepares for a wave of graying baby boomers to retire."
Viola's "pod" is 12x24 feet, blending bedroom, kitchenette, foyer and bath "the way that a fork and spoon combine to form a spork."
"The idea for the MedCottage came from the Rev. Kenneth J. Dupin, a minister in southwest Virginia who wondered why Americans didn’t take better care of their elders," says Kunkle. "He created N2Care, a company that designed the MedCottage with help from the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center. They stuffed its steel shell with the latest in biometric and communications technology, and crafted its features using universal design principles to accommodate people of all ages and people with disabilities."
Although the cottage doesn't come cheap (it retails for $85,000), it compares favorably to "assisted-living facilities that charge $40,000 or more a year."