A newer senior living concept is challenging pre-conceived notions of how nursing homes should be built and managed. An article on SeniorHousingNews.com reports that the “Green House Project,” is redefining housing for older adults requiring long-term care. Conceived almost 10 years ago, there are now 148 Green House residences in 24 states.
Citing an NPR segment, the article highlights the idea of seniors living in a home-like environment. The Green House residences have a limit of 12, each senior with their own private room and bath. Communal areas include an open kitchen and other living spaces. Residents are cared for by nursing assistants that also pitch in for kitchen duty and are trained in many other areas of running the residences. Another innovative concept is the lack of tightly observed schedules. If a resident is not ready for lunch at noon, he is able to eat later in the day.
Dr. Bill Thomas originated the idea for Green House in the 90s based on “a really radical idea: let’s abolish the nursing home.” A geriatric specialist, Thomas had many patients who lived in nursing homes and realized that although he was medicating them, one component that caused residents’ suffering was loneliness. With only 12 occupants, residents (called “elders” by staff) receive more individual attention, are more mobile and able to socialize more.
Research is showing that Green House residents maintain independence longer than those in conventional nursing homes. Studies also show that the private room concept promotes healthier residents. Director of the Green House project David Farrell says there’s more than luxury to private rooms, they are safer. With many seniors sharing a room and bath, Farrell says, “It just further increases the spread of infection for all the elders living there,”
Although with private rooms, it might seem Green House would be a pricier option, but the costs are about the median for nursing homes throughout the U.S. Many, like those in Baltimore, serve a predominantly lower-income population on Medicaid. Around 150 more Green House homes are currently in development and may eventually revolutionize the senior housing industry.