"Granny pods": Housing alternative for aging loved ones

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by CBS News

CBS This Morning

Posted on November 27, 2012 at 8:34 AM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 27 at 11:29 AM

(CBS News) AARP says about 23 million Americans take care of their elderly parents. Many of them have to choose between letting aging parents live alone or moving them into a nursing home.

Now there's now another option that brings families closer -- even if they're not living under the same roof.

When Viola Baez began to need constant care last winter, her daughter Soccorrito Page, would not even consider moving her to a nursing home. Baez told everyone for years, no nursing homes -- not ever.

Page said, "Whenever we had to visit somebody who was in a nursing home, or we drove past one, she said, 'I don't want to be in a place like that.' "

She said it was a "very, very clear" instruction.

Page wanted her mother to live nearby their Alexandria, Va. home, and wanted her to have some independence, so she bought a portable apartment called a 'MedCottage'. She put the cottage in the yard, right outside the kitchen window and built a 20-foot walkway so Baez can come and go at will.

Page said, "It's her space, but it's still with us."

The MedCottage is basically a three-room apartment equipped like a hospital room. There are safety rails, lighted floorboards, and a wall with a first-aid kit and defibrillator machine.

The structure also comes with three built-in cameras, including one in the ceiling overlooking the kitchen. There's also a camera that's mounted in the floor, and is designed to alert the family in the event that Baez falls.

Ken Dupin, who founded the company, says MedCottage is the formal name for his product, but it's not what most people call it. It's been known as "the Granny pod."

"That wasn't our name," he said. "You don't get to choose your nickname."

Whatever the apartment is called, Dupin believes he's found an answer for millions of baby boomers who are facing both their own retirements and the need to care for their parents.

Dupin said, "We wanted to say, 'There's got to be a better way to do this,' particularly as it involves family. And we feel that this is a very American solution."

The solution can be expensive. Page's cottage cost $125,000, but Page figured that a nursing home would cost more than $60,000 a year, and take Baez where she didn't want to be.

So what does Baez think of her new house? She said, "Well, as long as I live with my family, it's OK."

For Baez, the cottage outside the window represents the safety and care she always wanted, but for millions of other Americans, it's a possible glimpse of the future.

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