ElderPerch – An Elder-Friendly Alternative to Institutionalized Housing
Author: Tim Watson, Eco-restorative Architect. August 20, 2015
One day Doris had a stroke. Her life suddenly changed. Your life changed. Last summer she walked around the block with you visiting with neighbors. Now she stares longingly out the window. The time has come when you must sell your home, and find an alternative to the narrow doorways, confined bathroom, and steps up to the front porch. With good fortune at least the kids can have this beloved house you’ve lived in for so long now.
This is a story that is unfolding more often than ever as aging American populations expand.
But what if we set out to design of every aspect and element of a small dwelling with this key goal: creating homes which anticipate and accommodate the changing needs of people throughout their retirement years? Some speak of this goal as “aging in place”. And what if we could put a small house close to, if not next to, the house you live in now? Such flexibility can sometimes be retrofitted into existing homes, but not very often. For many aging Americans institutionalized care seems to be the only alternative. Many of us dread that prospect.
Now there is a fresh alternative to institutionalized care. Imagine spending about $100,000 for a one or two bedroom sized home that is designed to accommodate the long term needs of those of us who are entering into their post-retirement life. That alternative is ElderPerch. This is a single, or two bedroom sized small home design you’ve never heard of before. It is a kit house meant to be delivered to where you specify. It can be assembled in your backyard, or anywhere there is at least 40 foot by 40 foot sized open space available. It is a “Universal Designed (UD) kit house fully accessible for anyone confined to a wheelchair, or who may be contemplating the possibility of being less able to live the active life they used to live. And because of its patented foundation design, it can be “perched” just about anywhere you wish as long as there is adequate space available in conformance with local zoning regulations, covenants, and building codes. Imagine that open ground being in your very own backyard near one’s kids and grandkids, one’s life-long neighborhood, or anywhere one wishes to continue being a part of and present to family and community life.
Elder Perch is delivered in prefabricated pieces. Complete instructions and assembly hand tools come with this kit. No trips to the hardware store are needed by you or if you prefer, by your building contractor. Because of its patented design, no heavy machinery is needed for assembly. Each piece of this kit is designed to be light enough and small enough to be carried by two healthy people. That means it is possible to empty the kit’s delivery container at your family home’s front yard, and then hand carry everything to your backyard where it is to be assembled. Aside for excavations needed for plumbing connections and buried utilities, only a hand shovel is needed to prepare the ground for its unique foundation design. Each prefabricated piece can be configured for reverse assembly. That means once Elder Perch is no longer needed, it can be sold, disassembled, put back into a shipping container, and sent along to its new owner.
There is an added plus to this story: significantly reduced utility bills. This small home kit is designed for ideal sun orientation, and is made of materials that exceed current industry standard insulation values. Its heating, cooling, and all LED lighting utilize cutting edge technologies that minimize the amount of electricity needed. It features American Disability Act (ADA) compliance throughout including an entry access ramp, full kitchen, bath, and a large 12 foot (nominal) by 16 foot (nominal) day use living space. This living space is unique, for it is filled with muted sunlight thanks to its patented roof design. Given an average of $50,000 (or more) annual cost for institutionalized care, the Elder Perch investment offers the potential to pay for itself in as little as two years.
Special consultant acknowledgement: J. Alexander Mawhinney and Anthony Bolton