Arcadia Considering ‘Green House’ Assisted Living

by Kevin Cummings, Messenger Staff Writer
Leaders for a planned assisted living facility in Sewanee are considering various style options, but one particular model has piqued their interest.
The Board of Trustees for Arcadia at Sewanee will not select a design until after it chooses a developer, however, Linda Lankewicz, board president, said the Green House Project is one of the favorite models among board members.
“The Green House Project is an approach that attempts to allow residents to live meaningful lives,” she said. “Founded by Dr. Bill Thomas, it has been praised by many, included Dr. Atul Gawande in his book ‘Mortal Being.’”
Thomas, a geriatrician, started the Green House Project in 2003, according to the organization’s website, and now more than 170 elder-care homes feature the Green House model. The approach aims to make assisted living or nursing homes feel like a home as opposed to a hospital or institutional environment. To promote companionship and a welcoming family atmosphere, usually 10 to 12 residents live in a house, which includes an open layout with a kitchen, hearth and a common dining table.
Lankewicz said people want to be able to smell food cooking and feel like they are at home.
Other perks of the model include individual rooms, which a resident can personalize and bring in their own furniture, according to the Green House Project. Access to the outdoors and a low staff to resident ratio are also part of the design.
Earlier this year, Arcadia board members toured the Green House model employed by St. Martin’s in the Pines near Birmingham. St. Martin’s Green House homes are for long-term care, not assisted living.
Anica McDonald, director of marketing at St. Martin’s, said that facility has three Green House cottages, which opened in 2008. Each cottage has three floors and each floor is referred to as a “house” with 10 residents living in each one, she said. Each floor has a screened in porch that overlooks a courtyard.
“They are very comfortable living there because it is like a home environment,” McDonald said. “It’s beautiful and the concept is beautiful, but it’s a little bit difficult to manage from a long-term care perspective. I don’t know how it would work with assisted living, but from a long-term care perspective where people are needing more care, it’s a little bit difficult to manage.”
For example, she said there are logistical issues with three floors and no nursing station in the halls like at a traditional nursing home. She added than when an activity is at a different house, it can be a “juggling match” to get everybody involved when residents are at different levels of care and mobility.
Arcadia board members are also studying a model called Apartments for Life, a Dutch concept in which residents live in apartments which are age-restricted. For example, only people ages 55 and up may be allowed to live in the apartments. Staff members provide many services, like transportation, help accessing medical and other assistance, as well as organizing social events, but the model emphasizes independence.
As for what level of care and assistance will be offered at Arcadia at Sewanee, those options are also still under consideration.
“We are not at the point of knowing which type of care we would be able to provide, and it is likely that our work will happen in phases,” Lankewicz said. “Most of our conversation now is about some form of assisted living (which may be independent living with assistance) as the first step.”
The Arcadia board was elected in May 2016 to address the problem of people leaving the Mountain for care as they aged. Lankewicz said local residents have approached her and told her they are “counting on this.”
The Arcadia board is now considering two developers for the project, but Lankewicz said there is not a definitive timeline for choosing a developer. She noted that the board has worked with potential developers to help them get to know Sewanee and avoid a “cookie-cutter approach.”
The site is also to be determined, however, both developers are interested in building close to downtown Sewanee, Lankewicz said. In addition, feedback from potential residents also indicates a preference for living near the amenities of the Village.
“This quest to find a solution for senior living is a complex process,” Lankewicz said. “We continue to learn more and have to explore further.”