As a student at Columbia in the turbulent late 1960s, Bill Reed played a role in in the legendary occupation of campus buildings. Weeks later, he dressed as a cavalry officer and staged what he calls a “takeover of the campus sundial” – a protest against the protests. The proud descendant of an English horse thief who came to America on the Mayflower, Reed was, to take liberties with Jack Kerouac’s description of the first hippies, the rucksack revolutionary’s rucksack revolutionary.
These days, the 53-year-old entrepreneur ranks among Portland, Oregon’s business elite. He has a restaurant, Billy Reed’s American Grill, that dispenses roadhouse fare along with free Net access; an upscale residence with remote-controlled utilities and security; and, a few miles south in the suburb of Milwaukee, a $16 million rest home, Oatfield Estates.
As befits an aging rebel, Reed remains doggedly committed to socially and environmentally responsible projects. The walls of his eatery are cooled by well water and the tables topped with tropical hardwood scavenged from local shipyards. His house has solar heating, the garden is organic. And at Oatfield he’s rallying his peers once again, this time in defiance of their biological destiny.
Oatfield, which opened in September 2000, is the country’s first wired rest home. Perched on a hilltop in the shadow of the spectacular Mt. Hood, the facility comprises three (eventually to become eight) Swiss chalet-style residences, each including a kitchen, common areas, and fifteen apartment suites. Living spaces are outfitted with touchscreen-equipped PCs for surfing the Web, monitoring vital signs, and recalling names (tap a photo and up pops a personal profile). Computers are connected via Ethernet, and everything from lighting dimmers to ceiling fans can be remote-controlled. Caregivers, their families, and residents all live together and make decisions democratically about food and activities. It’s a high tech commune for oldsters.