“Now I don’t mind getting old,” exclaimed Marie Detwiler, age 91, as she explored a new Woodland Park Green House Home at Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community (VMRC). She understands the Woodland Park philosophy as do lots of others attending the first of two grand opening events in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
After chatting with Mrs. Detwiler, I remembered my reaction last week when I dropped into one of the homes for a sneak preview. “Exquisite,” I kept saying to myself as I walked from room-to-room.
Today (January 5, 2013) we celebrated at the first of two Woodland Park grand opening events — almost one year to the day since the groundbreaking. With these first Green House Homes in the Commonwealth of Virginia, VMRC aims to start a trend, encouraging other providers to recast the way they address aging issues and helping elders age well in a caring community that preserves their independence — even when they need considerable medical support.
Ron Yoder, the VMRC Chief Executive Officer, shared his thoughts about Woodland Park, thanking scores of people — contributors, committees, builders, planners, fundraisers, and everyone else who has made it possible for VMRC to design and build the new community. Each resident, Yoder noted, is assured privacy in his or her own bedroom and bathroom, ample common living space, easy access to a kitchen, wireless, and plenty of outside space to enjoy.
A highlight of the afternoon was a short presentation by Michelle Adkins, an articulate and thoughtful young woman who will work with residents at one of the Woodland Park homes. She and other staff members will provide personal care, plan activities, and prepare meals (in that beautiful kitchen) for the ten residents. Everyone will eat at a large dining room table, just like any other family.
“People in nursing care often say they want to go home or ask if they can go home to visit,” Michelle explained. “The point of Woodland Park is to create a real home for the residents.” She knows she will love her new position, because she will be simultaneously helping to create a family like community as well as benefiting from all kinds of elder wisdom. She “gets” the Green House mission, too.
VMRC Board Chair Sheryl Wise, also thanking the many people who collaborated on the Woodland Park project, quoted legendary Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs, who said that true innovative solutions and achievements result from dedicated groups working together. “We are working together and changing the way VMRC provides total living care,” she said.
Over the next several months I plan to continue blogging about Woodland Park, interviewing a few of the new residents to discover what they think about their new homes. I expect that they will have lots of interesting observations about what looks to be a transformative experience.
“This is truly transforming the institutional nursing home model as we know it,” explained Melissa Fortner, VMRC Vice President for Supportive Living. “That’s what we set out to do in the beginning, and now we are doing it.”
Speaking tomorrow (January 6, 2013) at the second grand opening event is geriatrician Dr. Bill Thomas, the founder and philosopher of the the Green House Homes movement. Thomas also started the Eden Alternative, a group that aims ”… to transform sterile medical institutions into communities where Elders live and thrive.”
I can’t wait! Watch for my next post from the Woodland Park grand opening.
Check out all of my posts on the planning and building of Woodland Park at Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community — where my parent have lived for the past six years.