Green House Projects Multiply and Grow Even Stronger

Green Houses, the non-medical model homes for fragile elders who need long-term care, have been in the 2015 news.

Woodland Park in the Snow

One of three homes at Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community’s Woodland Park — on a snowy day.

Take some time to read an exciting end-of-year blog post over at The Green House Project. Written by staff member Rachel Sher McLean, the short, yet comprehensive article describes how Green House projects are thriving,, and the piece includes links to articles noting the success of this model of long-term care. If you do not know much about The Green House Project, check out the organization’s website.

You can also bring yourself up to speed by reading my series of posts about the building of three Green Houses at Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community (VMRC).                             Continue reading

Loneliness as a Health Issue?

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 8.13.03 PMCheck out The Atlantic article, How Loneliness Wears on the Body. Written by Jessica Lahey and Tim Lahey, the piece points out loneliness is almost as big a health risk for elder adults as insecure food sources. The authors describe research published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that identifies a strong connection between loneliness and susceptibility to viral infections and inflammation.

The Atlantic article offers a link to the highly technical PNAS research report and it is freely available. Most of us who we want to learn a bit more than The Atlantic piece may be satisfied with the research abstract.

Any of us who have delivered food to the elderly or sick know from experience that our interactions with the recipients is almost as important as the food itself.

Great Green House Homes Article in Mass General Hospital Publication

Green House Homer MGHAn in-depth article about the Green House Home model appeared in the Fall 2013 edition of Proto Magazine, a publication of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston. The article, The New Nursing Home, by Cathryn Delude, describes the Green House model at the  Leonard Florence Center for Living in Chelsea, MA. The report also goes into considerable detail about the Green House Homes model, quoting Dr. Bill Thomas who came up with the concept in 2003.

The MGH Proto article also includes facts about the cost of building a completely new Green House community and provides an overview of the elder care culture change that is happening in other parts of the country. Author Delude points out that widespread success in culture change may depend on the staffing issues in elder care communities. Factors such as the huge turnover of elder care staff, their low pay, and the way that for-profit facilities maintain a staff that is about a third below the number of people that a non-profit nursing community hires.

Most Interesting Quote from the Article                  Continue reading

Green House Homes Featured on NPR

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I chatted with Dr. Bill Thomas during the grand opening of the Green Houses in Virginia.

In case you missed it, listen to this terrific All Things Considered segment, Move Over Nursing Homes — There’s Something Different. The July 23, 2013 radio story describes a visit to a Green House community in Baltimore and features Dr. Bill Thomas, the geriatrician who created the concept of elder care communities that help  residents maintain as much independence as possible.

The reporter also interviews staff members and residents who describe their daily lives the Baltimore community.

Interesting Points in the NPR Story Continue reading

Sharing Bible Study With Residents at VMRC’s Woodland Park

Front entrance with its own address -- just like any other home.

Check out the new Green House Homes @ Woodland Park.

My father, a retired minister, and my mother are leading a short Bible study once a week at Woodland Park, Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community’s (VMRC), newly opened  Green House Homes. The weekly activity is engaging and fun for mom and dad, and they enjoy sharing scripture as well as music with the group members. Most of the participants who choose to attend are physically fragile and some also have significant memory loss.

Each Thursday my parents bring a lesson, as much as possible, from the weekly lectionary — the three-year cycle of Bible readings that corresponds with the events of the Christian church liturgical year. Many ministers base their Sunday sermons on these readings, and many churches schedule their Bible study groups to help members learn more about the lectionary passages prior to the Sunday service when the passages are read during worship.

At the Woodland Park Bible study sessions my parents just about always read a Psalm. Dad chooses the next reading based on how well-known and familiar it is, because the participants are increasingly engaged when they recognize the story, and some may even share a thought or two after hearing the passage read aloud. With this group familiarity with a passage is more important than any one lectionary passage.

Music and hymn singing become more central each time my parents lead a session, since just about every member of the group seems to automatically remember words to many of the old-time favorite hymns. Continue reading

Celebrating the Opening of Woodland Park – Part II

Dr. Bill Thomas speaks at the Sunday dedication of Woodland Park.

Dr. Bill Thomas speaks at the Sunday dedication of Woodland Park.

Several years ago, when Jody G. started working at Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community (VMRC), she watched a video about the Green House Homes that were to be built. Immediately she fell in love with the concepts and wanted to become a shahbaz, the name for each person who works in the home.

I knew right then that I wanted to go to work in a Green House with its atmosphere conducive to building relationships and where the residents would have a say in what happens each day,” she said. “I couldn’t wait until the houses were built.”

The second celebration at VMRC was a day to thank collaborators — attending from near and far — people who worked together to bring the new Green House Homes to life. According to CEO Ron Yoder, the entire process took nine years and two months of hard work — dreaming, envisioning, planning, designing, and building three houses. The plan is to build a total of ten houses, each with living space for ten residents. Check out the many pictures on this blog or check out the pictures of the inside of the Woodland Park homes at the VMRC website.

My parents at the grand opening. Photo courtesy of VMRC

My parents at the grand opening. Photo courtesy of VMRC

Sunday’s speakers included representatives from the Mennonite Health Services Alliance and the Virginia Association of Nonprofit Homes for Aging, and both groups will probably arrange to bring members to visit and learn more about Woodland Park. Susan Frazier, the CEO of NCB Capital Impact, a nonprofit that partners with organizations to improve elder care, shared some Green House Homes facts (see below). Thanks were offered to the architects and interior designers who created the beautiful spaces and made them look like real homes, and extra special recognition was given to VMRC staff members like Jody G., who will work in the homes as shahbazim — sharing, working, and caring for the residents in each house.

Continue reading