`Granny pods' instead of old age homes - a new idea for US seniors

`Granny pods' instead of old age homes - a new idea for US seniors

The so-called MEDCottage is high-tech accommodation, which is set in the garden as if it were a shed, providing senior citizens with their own space.
Some have disparagingly called it it a "granny pod", but for others it is an innovative idea: a high-tech hut devised to provide care for relatives who need it.
And it was not invented by a shrewd businessman but by the Reverend Kenneth Dupin, whose vision is to bring generations closer together.

The idea may prove popular, he says. The first MEDCottage was ordered in late July and several thousand people have shown an interest in it since then.
"Every little old lady in the world called us asking for one," he says.
From the outside, the MEDCottage looks like a little garden shed. It is eight metres long and four metres wide, and contains everything one might need: a bath, cooking facilities, a bed.
Beyond that, there are special details. There is camera surveillance so that care-givers can see at any time whether the person within the hut has taken a fall. There are several medical appliances, from a blood pressure monitor to a pill box which reminds the user of the precise times when the pills need to be taken.

Everything is built on a single floor, with the bath adapted for people with special needs, and with a lift to help patients out of bed. An air conditioner filters the air, which is set to minimise the risk of infections particularly for patients with weakened immune systems.
Such a shed costs $64,000 to $73,000, or $1,400 a month to rent - cheaper than a room at an old people's home.

But there is also criticism of the initiative.
"Is it a good idea to throw people into a storage container and put them in your back yard?" Fairfax County Supervisor Jeff C McKay asked in The Washington Post. "This is a granny pod. What's next? The college dropout pod?"
And yet AARP, the largest organisation devoted to promoting the needs of senior citizens in the US, regards the MEDCottage as a good thing.

"With the population increasing dramatically like it is, we really need to look to innovative ideas. And this is one of them," says AARP board member Jeannie English.
Dupin himself is firmly convinced that his invention helps protect senior citizens from the loneliness of an old people's home. This 55-year-old from Salem, Virginia, was impressed when he saw in other countries how people dealt with older members of the family.
"Everywhere else in the world ageing is revered. It's a good thing," he says.
He claims that only in the US is this otherwise, which is something that Dupin cannot understand. "The greatest fear that we have as we age is being isolated from the people that we love," he says.

When children are born, parents purchase many things, for example, the furniture for a new room. "I think we should do the same thing when we mature."
The pastor and his many followers, however, are encountering one major problem: in much of the US, it is not legally easy to build in one's back yard.
Dupin has been lobbying politicians and in the state of Virginia setting up a MEDCottage has been allowed since July 1. However, a doctor has to confirm the needs of the resident and when the hut is no longer needed it has to be removed within 30 days.
The new rule makes a mess of urban planning as we know it, McKay complains.
"This basically sets up an opportunity to do something legally, which prior to this had been illegal - which is to set up a second residence on a single-family property," McKay says.
Still, the development can apparently no longer be stopped. Production has started and the first 100 cottages are to be delivered beginning in 2011.
Dupin is excited: "We will change the world."

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