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A high-tech solution to an older-age issue

Gregory Warner Aug 12, 2010

A high-tech solution to an older-age issue

Gregory Warner Aug 12, 2010


Bob Moon: Breaking news of sorts: We’re all getting older. Every one of us. So here’s a problem that we’ll all need to think about at some point: How to let “the folks” live independently as they get older, while we still keep a caring eye on them. One company is offering a high-tech solution. From our Health Desk at WHYY in Philadelphia, Gregory Warner reports.

Gregory Warner: After his third stroke, Bob Braun couldn’t live alone anymore. His daughter, Ellen, didn’t want to put him in a nursing home far away. She also didn’t have the space for him to move in with her.

Ellen Braun: You know my dad would listen to the TV blaring? Laff. And I just needed an extra room for him to have his space and me to have mine.

She hired architects to draw up an addition to her home. There was the zoning board to deal with. Before she could start construction, her dad died. There’s a company in Virginia that promises to make that whole process easier and a lot less expensive.

Braun: You can have a med-cottage within 48 hours.

Ken Dupin is the inventor of the med-cottage. A little prefab house that sits in the backyard. It leases for $2,000 a month. Behind that vinyl exterior there are motion sensors.

Ken Dupin: If someone doesn’t get out of bed, let’s say it’s 10 o’clock in the morning, and the sensor says that they have never gone to the bathroom, they’ve never gone to the kitchen, then you could call them or check on them.

Or even walk across the yard and:

Dupin: Visit them, whatever it is you would need to do.

The house is smart. It knows the temperature of the room. Whether your dad remembered to take his medication. There are floor-level cameras to monitor falls. All that information feeds realtime to a website you can check like email. An iPod app is in the works.

Dupin: That’s right. It’s really just a great way to connect.

Engineer Scott Muench helped design the brains of the med-cottage. He’s rigged up the same technology in airports and office complexes.

Scott Muench: For instance in Dubai, over 30,000 buildings all talk back to a global command center using the technology.

I put the concept to Ellen Braun, the one who was planning that addition on her house. She did like the convenience.

Braun: But maybe it’s the thought of monitoring everything so much that makes it feel, not like family.

The medcottage should come on the market by January. Given the millions of baby boomers and their parents, its inventor is hoping for more than a cottage industry.

In Philadelphia I’m Gregory Warner for Marketplace.

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