No one really wants to be in a nursing home, especially independent and dynamic baby boomers. Kenneth Dupin, the founder and CEO of the new company N2Care, is giving the latest generation of Americans facing the challenges of aging and their families another option.
The Salem resident presented the idea of the 288 square foot MEDcottage to local media on Tuesday, August 25 at the Sheraton Hotel and Conference center in Roanoke. Many of the company’s investors are also from Salem. Janis Terpenny, a prestigious Engineering professor at Virginia Tech, is helping N2Care with design and with developing relationships and applying for grants and government aid.
The modular home’s design, almost a mini-apartment, has a shower, bed and closet, and a small kitchen space. But two things make it special: 1) it’s equipped with numerous smart and medical features that will make it conducive to safely house even a handicapped or ill aging person, and 2) it’s designed to be stationed in the family’s yard, for a short or long period of time.
Remote devices that transmit to a wireless internet connection, including the Toto Intelligence toilet, would measure vital signs and water intake, take urine samples, dole out medicine doses, and keep track of the apartment’s environment. It will measure the water level in the sink, the temperature and oxygen level, whether the doors are locked and more. Cameras one foot above the floor, pointed downward, will save privacy while letting the family see if mom or dad has fallen and can’t get up.
The prototype model has just been ordered, and he estimated the cost will be between $60,000 and $100,000. The cost for renting the unit by month is supposed to be half that of nursing home care, and the consumer will most likely have help from insurance. After research and testing of the prototype, models will be ordered for the first franchise that will be located somewhere in Roanoke County. From there, they hope to expand to Virginia and then into the rest of the nation.
Dupin’s idea for the cottage came to him while he was traveling around the world, particularly Japan, for his PhD. project in international development.
“I was fascinated by how other cultures dealt with aging and health care,” he said. “In other cultures as you age, you are more esteemed, more valued.” He noticed that isn’t the case for most in the United States, where the aging population is viewed as more of a social and financial burden, he said.
The biggest obstacles the MEDcottage will face are zoning laws. He estimated that about half of the surrounding communities would allow the structure and about half would not. They would either need legislative help or have protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
N2Care also hopes to expand to other markets after they start with aging seniors. Because of the hospital-grade pathogen protection, future designs might supply instant hospital rooms for large scale disasters, military field operations, and many other applications.
To read Sarah Bruyn Jones’s story from Wednesday’s Roanoke Times, click here.