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Aging in Place- ECHO Housing- Guest Post

by Louis on October 19, 2010

I had some experience in the mid 90’s with the ECHO (Elder Cottage Housing Option) idea. There was one pre-fab unit on the market but the numbers and logistics did not work for my client.

I am really impressed that I know of  four on the market right now! As I started to write a post about these new players, I turned to Dr Jeannette Steeves, who wrote about this while she was getting her PhD at Virginia Tech, with a question. Once we caught up on all the personal I figured it was easier (for me) and better ( for you) to have her write it. Jeanette’s entry follows. The four current players are:

Sidekick Homes

FabCab

MedCottage

Garage Next Door

The ECHO Housing Concept: Coming of Age With the Needs of an Aging Population

By Dr. Jeannette Steeves

The ECHO housing concept, originating as an Australian program called the “granny flat” in the 1970s, is not new.  However, the high level of professional builder industry interest as indicated by an increase in providers of ECHO-type dwellings, as well as consumer interest by the rapidly growing elderly population is new.  The two cohorts are synergistically supporting each other.  The ECHO-type home provides a much needed housing model that does not involve living in a health care facility (which is inappropriate for many), and the ECHO-type residence provides the option of aging in community with safety and dignity for the elderly person.  It’s a true win-win!

Universal – often referred to as “good” – design is a primary component in the success of the ECHO housing concept.  Design of the living space that successfully address specific, identified, problematic issues associated with aging is critical to providing independence, and independence is the priority for most of the aging population.  Companies such as FabCab, MedCottages and Sidekick Homes provide a variety of options for the consumer interested in addressing their future housing needs.  Design priorities vary from one product to the next.  Marketing continues to make aesthetics an important factor, and design that accommodates the losses that occur in healthy aging as well as compromised physical and cognitive attributes are incorporated in subtle and attractive ways that do not distract from the overall appearance of the residence.

Zoning issues continue to be problematic, but indications are that regulatory agencies are increasingly recognizing a need to provide innovative housing options for special needs populations.  This trend is likely to continue and spread with the demand for supportive housing as the population ages.

Yes, the ECHO Housing concept is “coming of age”.  However it is more than simply a matter of timing.  It is the result of a confluence of health, demographic and service provision factors that are configuring the phenomenon.  The ECHO Housing concept has significant potential for enhancing the lives of many special needs groups, especially seasoned and independent Americans.

Jeannette Steeves, PhD     jett10@juno.com                                                 Housing Specialist     Timely Manor, Inc.
Consulting Services specializing in residential independence strategies for the aging population.

THEN!!! This article on Building a Better Burb appears in Leah Thayer’s daily5Remodel blogsite. It reminds me what I wrote here recently. Livable, Green, Sustainable, Aging in Place, Universal Design. The point is…if you do the right thing, it works out for the best. taking leads from population demographics, climate change and similar realities helps us see what ‘right’ is. That points us in the right direction…our job is to pay attention so we see into the future before crises. I hope Aging in Place 2.0 is that sort of attention.

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