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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, August 4, 2011

“Exciting prototype”
High-tech group home to be built in Westmere

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — A home using smart technology to help people with disabilities live independently, one of the few such group homes in the country, is planned for Guilderland.

Living Resources, which provides a wide range of services to individuals with developmental disabilities, wants to construct a six-bedroom, three-and-a-half bathroom house on Wendom Road in Westmere.

Living Resources is in the process of applying for grants to fund the approximately $650,000 project.

The house would be home to six people with developmental and physical disabilities, who are already receiving services from Living Resources.

The six people to live in the home have been selected, according to Frederick Erlich, the chief executive officer of Living Resources; three are currently living in a different group home, and three are living with family right now.

“It would be a home built specifically for the purpose of enhancing both independence and safety for people who have disabilities,” Erlich said.

The benefit to the residents, most of whom are in their 20s and 30s, would be the ability to live in an environment that doesn’t have the “nursing home” feel, said Erlich. The residents will still pay for the services with the Medicaid waiver program.

“There will be varying levels of support available there,” he said. He described built-in remote and radio technology, as well as a tele-health monitoring system that would record health measurements and send data wirelessly to doctors and other medical staff.

“It would really be a ‘smart house,’ with all the latest technology and green construction that would provide energy savings as well,” Erlich said. The model is based on the first smart home built in the nation, in Colorado. That home, built by Imagine! in 2003, offers residents special task prompters and reminders, adapted web and e-mail programs, and communication devices. It provides staff members with an interface to share information, documentation of the history of residents, and medication prompters.

Aside from the high-level technology, the home also provides emergency call buttons, weight and motion sensors in the beds, automated sinks and soap dispensers, adjustable appliances, door sensors, and more.

Erlich said he hopes to implement the same technology in the Guilderland house, and believes the local smart home could act as a prototype for others to be built in the Capital Region.

“We’re very excited about this, and have been researching and planning it for years,” he said.

At a July 5 Guilderland Town Board meeting, a hearing was held to gauge public sentiment on the group home in the suburban Westmere area. Only two residents spoke at the hearing, and both were in favor of the home, but had concerns about traffic. Living Resources will appear before the town’s planning board with a revised traffic plan before going ahead with the project.

“It’s in a great location, in a great community, and it’s close to our office so we can offer more services,” concluded Erlich. “We hope it’s an interesting and exciting prototype.”

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