Change In Zoning Laws Allows Backyard Pods for Seniors
Governor McDonnell is expected to sign legislation next week that will supersede local zoning laws to allow a small, temporary, medical cottage in backyards to care for aging parents. Charles Fishburne reports.
One of the most significant pieces of legislation passed by this year’s General Assembly has so far gone relatively unnoticed. And next week, Governor McDonnell is expected to sign this legislation that could potentially change the way older people are cared for in the final years of their lives and in the process, make room for what some are calling “Granny Pods,” in backyards across Virginia.
Dupin: It’s 284 square feet and it would be what we call a medical environment. It is what you would think of as a state-of-the-art hospital room or a nursing home room that is transportable and you would be able to put it on a homeowner’s property. And it would have an umbilical relationship with the primary residence, much like an RV would if you had a camper or something like that.
The Reverend Kenneth Dupin is the inventor, CEO, and driving force behind the concept and the company, that seeks to keep aging relatives close to home in their final years.
Dupin: It is no way an indictment against nursing homes. They do very well with what they are asked to do.
But he says, as he made his rounds as a minister, he was appalled at the way this country seemed to deal with its aging population.
Dupin: Virtually no other culture in the world does this. In every other culture you get more value as you age, you have more prestige, you’re more esteemed. Where, in the United States we are a culture that worships youth, from my perspective, and, proportionately as you age that becomes a challenge to the culture and to everyone around us.
But a tidal wave of baby boomers may force us to redefine how we treat our older population, which is set to double in the next ten years. There aren’t enough facilities to handle it, nor is there enough money to pay for it.
Dupin: When you talk about family-managed care, as opposed to insurance- or federally-funded care, a family can take care of a loved for probably half the money that an institution can, and it seems so much more desirable to us when we think about, you know, and this is truly not an indictment again nursing homes, but something between 15 and 17 percent of all of the people ina nursing home have less than one visit a year.
Dupin’s MEDcottage addresses both real costs and human costs, and he quickly found friends at the General Assembly to pass legislation to make it possible.
Dupin: The access that we had to the people that eventually made the decision was unbelievable. Especially, when you consider the fact that we did not make a single campaign contribution. And many of these delegates and senators went home to local municipalities that were, obviously, some that were opposed to it.
He suspects there will be legal challenges ahead. The law is unprecedented. But he says, so is the challenge.
Dupin: It’s funny, in that everybody believes that they are going to die in their sleep some night in their bed -- you know, after Thanksgiving dinner at their children’s house at 90 years old. That’s honestly how we think.
Dupin says part of the problem is we don’t think, until it’s too late. The MEDcottage would require a permanent foundation, hookups, and a lease that could run $2,000 a month. It would have sophisticated monitoring equipment onboard that could be read at the main house. Whatever additional care is needed would be up to the family. But Dupin believes it could be an affordable and attractive option.
Dupin: This is an idea whose time has come.
Next week, Governor McDonnell is expected to sign the legislation into law, and sometime in June, a prototype of Ken Dupin’s MEDcottage will be unveiled. More information is available online at MEDcottage.com.
Charles Fishburne, WCVE News.