Getting smart

Technology — including portable ‘granny pods’ — can enable more independent living

NextDoor Housing of New Brighton has developed a new, portable senior-housing option called a Drop Home that can stay warm in Minnesota winters. Photo courtesy of NextDoor Housing
NextDoor Housing of New Brighton has developed a new, portable senior-housing option called a Drop Home that can stay warm in Minnesota winters. Photo courtesy of NextDoor Housing

The so-called golden years can be a rich time of life to enjoy.

It’s a time to truly enjoy the benefits of free time — to pursue a new hobby, take a class, visit loved ones or volunteer to help others.

Along with those advantages, of course, come inevitable aches and pains, reduced mobility and other physical and mental challenges that vary widely from person to person.

With a little support, however, older adults can enjoy life more fully and safely in ways not available to previous generations, often thanks to assistive technology.

Getting ‘smart’ about senior care

Today ‘smart home’ sensors, specially designed smart pendant necklaces and specialty cameras can help caregivers and seniors better enjoy life.

High-tech dispensers can report to a family member if a loved one forgets to take medications.

Shoes can be GPS-equipped to help locate a wandering senior with dementia.

Motion sensors can detect changes in the normal household routine that may indicate a problem.

These tools help older adults live and move about more safely, summoning help when there’s an urgent need.

Senior Community Services will showcase some of this potential at its statewide Independent Living Technology Conference on Oct. 14 in Minnetonka.

Caregivers, seniors, city officials, health professionals and others will gather to discover the latest advancements in assistive technology to enhance life for the state’s growing population of older adults.

U.S. Sen. Al Franken will welcome attendees with video comments.

The keynote address, about innovations in senior housing, will be presented by John Louiselle, CEO of NextDoor Housing of New Brighton.

The Drop Home

NextDoor Housing has developed a new, portable senior housing option called The Drop Home.

A Drop Home is a small, handicapped-accessible housing unit that measures 30-by-8 feet — 210 to 240 square feet in all.

Mounted on steel trailer that can be hauled by a pickup, it’s looks like a cross between a small home and an RV and can be temporarily placed on a family member’s residential property.

A model version of the home — defined as a type of temporary family health care dwelling or “granny pod” — will be available for touring at the conference, which is open to the public.

Learn more at or 612-200-0849

A new law

Effective Sept. 1, 2016, Minnesota cities must allow the installation of temporary family health care dwellings (granny pods), unless the city has a law specifically banning the units.

A temporary family health care dwelling, according to the law, must be constructed off site, have access to utilities and be located on a property where a designated caregiver or relative is taking care of a mentally or physically impaired person.”

A temporary dwelling permit, under the law, must be valid for six months and the permit may be renewed once for an additional six months.

Drop Home prices start at $45,000 or $1,250 a month for a rental package that includes maintenance, utilities management and additional services.

During the conference, a panel discussion and Q-and-A session will focus on the benefit of granny pods, which are being studied, evaluated and, in a couple cases, banned by communities throughout Minnesota.

Other tech tools

The conference will also feature demonstrations of other assistive technologies by representatives of the Minnesota STAR Program, a federally funded initiative to support seniors and families.

Representatives from the CareNextion website will explain the free, easy-to-use web tool developed by Senior Community Services to help families — especially those with members widely dispersed — better manage care and communications about their older loved ones.

As Minnesotans come together to reimagine aging at this upcoming conference, let’s ensure our goal is to make technology fit the older adult lifestyle — not the other way around.

Deb Taylor is CEO of Senior Community Services and its Reimagine Aging Institute, a nonprofit organization that advocates for older adults. 

Independent Living Technology Conference

What: Minnetonka-based Senior Community Services will showcase a variety of technologies and innovations in senior living and caregiving.

When: 1-5 p.m. Oct. 14

Where: Minnetonka Community Center, Minnetonka

Cost: Admission is $45 for ages 60 and older or $75 for others (plus fees).