Beating the Odds against Granny Pods
Beating the Odds against Granny Pods
Now that it’s no longer fashionable for extended families to live together under one roof, the burning question has become: What do we do with the old folks? Those with the wherewithal can choose from a variety of options for outsourcing aging relatives. These range from assisted living facilities to “cluster housing,” meaning houses built around a common, communal space.
But the most intriguing new solution calls for parking needy old folks in a MedCottage or “granny pod” built in the backyard.
You read it right. The granny pods are located behind the main house where the dog house or the servants’ quarters or a storage unit might be located. Tightly packed, these pods include a bedroom, a handicapped-accessible bath, a cooking area and a living room, all in one 12 by 24 foot area.
A major advantage, as promoters see it, is that the young folks can keep the old folks nearby without having them underfoot.
Or as Stephen Colbert observed recently on The Colbert Report: “Why should seniors spend time in a cold hospital environment far from their families when they could be in a cold hospital environment within sight of these families?”
Among other advantages, these state-of-art cottages feature monitoring devices that allow caregivers to check the occupant’s vital signs from a distance and high-speed computers the old folks can use, assuming they are computer savvy, to communicate with the outside world. Some granny pods even have cushioned floors so if grandma falls where the monitors are out of reach, she at least will be cozy until someone finds her.
Despite these advantages the Granny Pods are not universally admired. Many old folks share the opinion expressed by Viola Baez, 88, resident of a Washington, D.C., suburb. Baez told The Washington Post she felt like she was being “thrown out” or “sent to the dog house” when her family invested in a granny pod. Other seniors have compared life in a granny pod to “being put out to pasture.” One 80-year-old grandfather of four suggested: “Why don’t they just build an electric fence and give us a collar and let us roam around the yard.”
But judging from their steady sales the granny pods have worked for other families. Originally called MedCottages, the pods were developed by Kenneth J. Dupin, a Methodist minister from Salem, Va., and the founder of N2Care. Dupin worked with the Virginia Tech College of Engineering in designing the MEDCottage
“Today, as 78 million Baby Boomers prepare for their senior years – potentially straining nursing homes and government-funded health care programs – we’ve taken a significant step forward in redefining the role of family in healthcare,” Dupin said in a recent statement.
According to The Post, the AARP Bulletin and other publications, the market is growing for similar homesteads. Clearly, those of us who feel vulnerable should plan ahead. I have a five-point plot in mind for helping my family to see the light should they ever contemplate a pod for me.
One. Feign enthusiasm initially, saying, “Great, I could celebrate happy hour with you every Friday night.”
Two. Promise to cook their favorite hominy casserole and maraschino cherry layer cake every Sunday and serve these as the young folks watch their favorite Sunday afternoon football games.
Three. Remind them that I belong to a book club, a writing club and a poker group and suggest that when my fellow members visit me they could stroll through the main house and get to know my young family members better.
Four: Tell them I would become claustrophobic in a pod, especially if spied upon with a webcam.
Five: Inquire as to whether the $125,000 cost of building a granny pod plus the continuing monthly expenses would be greater than the cost of providing some home care for me.
I’m certain my family would decide that I would fare better in my own home, surrounded by old friends and with access to daily activities in my old community.
Smiling broadly, I would agree with their sapient decision, under these conditions: that they always return my telephone calls, visit me frequently, invite me to their place occasionally and give the old pod cast to any future thoughts of stashing me away in the back yard.