BrandSource members Linda and Mark Hunter outside the FTS Furniture Suite in Las Vegas

Wyoming dealer rethinks the elder care crisis

By Andy Kriege, YSN

Mark Hunter thinks big.

As a lifetime entrepreneur, the BrandSource member has been involved in several business ventures, including his store, Hunter’s Furniture & Appliance in Afton, Wyo. He and his wife Linda launched the business 20 years ago in a market with several competitors, but by virtue of hard work and an uncanny business savvy, they have since outlived virtually all their rivals.

For most people, achieving Hunter’s level of success over the span of four-plus decades would be more than enough to hang their hats on, and then happily kick back and relax. But Hunter is not most people. He thinks and processes things differently, and therefore sees the big picture more clearly than most.  

When Hunter’s aging parents were challenged to find affordable options for their long-term care, he immediately began to consider alternatives. “My 44 years of business experience told me there is a gray tsunami about to hit and that we are going to need more long-term care options to handle the impending wave,” he said.

Hunter was determined to find a more affordable, yet scalable solution to help meet the demand. Being an elder-care outsider and not confined to traditional thinking, he leveraged his decades of business experience, stepped outside the four walls of the current care model … and turned it upside down.

Two Peas in a Pod

After thoroughly studying the problems and considering a whole host of potential solutions, Hunter hatched an ingenious concept — the ppod.

Theppod is a portable, temporary and reusable all-season housing unit that allows aging seniors to reside next to family, friends or caretakers in their own high-tech suite. A simple housing and care delivery platform, the ppod is loaded with high-tech health and care tools, including the latest vitals monitoring and telehealth technologies.

The reusable ppods can be transported to residential locations, ideally next to loved ones, allowing occupants to age in place.

“I wanted to create something for my parents that would give them their own space, without remodeling my house for a short-term need,” he said. “My ideas were very appealing to my parents, as well as to other seniors who did not want to end up in a nursing home.”

Inside the pod

Hunter said the concept’s unique name “was a nod to my parents’ shining example of a great love between two young hearts, albeit in aging bodies. Symbolically they were ‘two peas in a pod.’”

A great deal of thought went into the design of the units, which, he surmised, would need to be self-contained, loaded with caretaker tools and medical devices, and require only an electrical hookup. “I considered the importance of the need for easy transfers and optimal space utilization,” Hunter said. “I tapped into high-end private jet and yachting designs and their components to help me create a robust design.”

What Makes ppod Feasible? 

There are no large up-front costs and nothing to buy, Hunter said, as the units would be leased on a month-to-month basis. “When the need goes away, so does ppod,” he said. Designed to have a functional 30-year life, “It’s then picked up and refurbished and made ready for another waiting senior.” It was also important that low- to middle-income families could benefit from his efforts.

The ppod has evolved from Hunter’s early pencil drawings and after several years of development, he received a utility patent for the concept last November. A second business method patent is pending.

Another missing puzzle piece to move the project forward was funding, as the government had not historically reimbursed home-based eldercare. But Hunter’s ppod renderings and business model were completed as COVID-19 hit institutional care hard and their 201,000 COVID deaths ultimately changed the government’s funding paradigm. Now, Medicaid reimbursement is approved for telehealth and home-based eldercare. Also, a 2024 survey now shows 80% of respondents do not want the current long-term care offerings.

What’s more, he reimagined care and health at home, as ppod delivers personal real-time communications between family and clinicians via telehealth, and providing preventive care at new levels.

Where’s the Project Now?

Hunter is presently meeting with potential manufacturers, building a prototype and pursuing investors. So far, he’s financed the entire project himself, but is looking to raise $12 million in a first round of funding. “We will soon see how much ‘venture’ there is in venture capital,” he said.

“As the baby boomers were being born it was said, ‘Babies mean business,’” he said. “These boomers created new companies like Gerber and Kellogg’s. Eighty years later these same babies still mean business. They now want different, more affordable and safer senior care and housing options at home.”

Like the boomers before him, Hunter saw a need and found a solution. “I see opportunity in all directions and enjoy solving problems,” he said. “My mind rarely rests.”

YSN publisher AVB BrandSource is the nation’s largest merchandising and marketing co-op for independent appliance, mattress, furniture and CE dealers.

Upcoming Events