Close

Pioneering the granny pod: Fairfax County family adapts to high-tech dwelling that could change elder care - The Washington Post

Posted on by Brandon Klein

As the first private inhabitant of a MedCottage, Viola is a reluctant pioneer in the search for alternatives to nursing homes for aging Americans. Her relatives agonized over the best way to care for Viola only after her ability to care for herself became questionable. Their decision exposed intergenerational friction that worsened after the new dwelling arrived.

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.

Over the past decade, the population of Americans who are 65 or older has grown faster than the total population, the Census Bureau says. In less than 20 years, the number of Americans who are 65 or older will top 72 million, or more than twice the population of older Americans in 2000, and many will need to find living arrangements that balance their need for independence and special care.

Viola’s family understood this. Her daughter, Socorrito Baez-Page, 56, who goes by Soc, and her son-in-law, David Page, 59 — both of whom are doctors — began planning her care well before Viola’s husband died of cancer last February. They explored many options and had firsthand experience with several. Soc and David had taken care of or arranged various types of care, including assisted living and hospice, for other parents.

Their decision to buy the first MedCottage in private use, along with Viola’s bumpy adjustment to life inside it, offers a look at an unusual solution to an increasingly common situation and the emotional trade-offs that arise from it.