By Meg LaPorte / Posted on July 10th, 2019
Following is a repost of a blog by Carol Silver Elliott as it appeared in the Times of Israel on July 8.
What if we viewed elders as individuals with value and purpose? What if we stopped, as a society, seeing older adults as “them,” as people who are “less than” and who have little to contribute? How would that change our perception of older adults and how would that change our view of our own lives as we all, inevitably, age?
That’s the underlying premise of The Green House Project, an organization that’s been in existence for more than 15 years and whose goal is to transform care of older adults. Green House was founded by Dr. Bill Thomas, a geriatrician, who realized early in his career that the care we provide for elders can be radically different and radically improved.
Dr. Thomas began the Eden Alternative, bringing plants and animals into long term care settings, based on a theory that having something to look after and care for would have a positive effect on the residents. It did. But that was not the full answer. Dr. Thomas developed the concept for Green House and today there are hundreds of Green House homes across the United States and internationally.
Green House homes are founded on three core values, real home, meaningful life and empowered staff. Each of these play a role in making the most critical element work—creating a non-institutional, normal environment for elders, an environment that is not “homelike,” rather, it is home.
Last week I had the opportunity to attend a five day educator program provided by Green House. It’s a program called “core training” and it is something that every staff person who works in our organization will receive. The program was held in a new Green House development in Arkansas so we had the gift of both spending the week in an actual home that has not yet opened and visiting elders who live in the homes on that campus that have already opened.
While there was a lot of learning during that week (and a nearly 700 page teacher guide that we will use as we teach it), what really resonated with me is the understanding that this philosophy is not an “add on” or a “tweak” to what we do and what we provide. It is full immersion, it is changing the way we interact, think and approach elders.
To really create normal life for those who live with us, we must always remember to focus on strengths rather than disabilities. When we focus on what someone can do rather than what they can no longer do, it changes the equation dramatically. And that applies in every area from activities to care to dining and so much more. Giving people the opportunity to make choices, express themselves and enabling independence as much as possible, that’s one key elements that creates real home.
This is not an “add water and stir” approach, it’s not easy and it will be a major change in behavior and mindset for many of us. But talking with the elders who live in Green House homes, as well as the staff who work with them, one thing is clear. The results are worth the effort. The elders who live in these settings and can articulate it, told us about quality of life. They told us about feeling comfortable and at home, about the staff who felt like extended family, about the choices they were able to make about every aspect of their lives, about the family members who came to visit and felt as welcome as if they were still visiting them at home in the community. The staff echoed similar sentiments, the satisfaction of deeply knowing the elders with whom they work, the joy of being able to see and treat people as individuals and not room numbers or diagnoses, the ability to create “normal” every day. And those elders who can no longer use language as they once could, shared their feedback through the peace in their faces and the comfort they clearly found in the soothing environments of their home.
Maya Angelou wrote “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Those words have great meaning as we begin this transformational journey. They have great meaning as we think about the care we provide to elders and the possibilities. We can do better as caregivers, as families and as a society to remember that our elders are not “them,” rather that they are still an important part of “us.”
Here is a link to the original blog post: https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/transforming-the-experience/
By Meg LaPorte / Posted on February 12th, 2019
The Green House Project’s very own Deborah Wiegand recently served as a judge in the 2019 Environments for Aging (EFA) Design Showcase competition. She and 16 other jurors gathered in Dallas in mid-January to review and evaluate 44 submissions from all over the countr
This was the first year that someone from The Green House Project national organization has participated in judging the competition. According to Donna Paglia, EFA’s consultant for special projects, Wiegand (who was appointed by the Society for the Advancement of Gerontological Environments, or SAGE), was chosen “for her specific talents as a consultant to the industry.
The winners were announced Jan. 23, with eight entrants recognized as competition finalists and another 33 to be published in the showcase issue of EFA magazine. “This distinction is given to projects that received overall scores that were at or above our standards to be published,” said Paglia.
Follow are the criteria for the awards:
• Award of Merit: Overall Project Raises the Bar across all criteria: Innovation; Collaboration; Aesthetics; Operations.
• Honorable Mentions: Raised the Bar within one of more criteria: Innovation; Collaboration; Aesthetics; Operations.
• Finalists: Showed significant scoring within criteria: Innovation; Collaboration; Aesthetics; Operations.
You can find all of the award winners HERE.
The judging happens as follows: Jurors are placed into groups to offer a good balance of architects, designers, consultants, and providers on the panel. Teams then review projects virtually over a two-week period before arriving at the “live” event, where t
hey review the projects in teams and as a full group, according to Paglia.
“There were many variations among the designs submitted and it was very clear to me that some had collaborated more extensively with stakeholders than others,” Wiegand said of her experience. “In my opinion, this is a very important aspect to good design.”
The winners will be recognized during the 2019 EFA Conference and Expo, which takes place April 7 to 10 in Salt Lake City, Utah.
By Meg LaPorte / Posted on March 13th, 2018
For our next series, we visited Pompano Beach, Fla., where a retirement community known as John Knox Village is located–about 10 miles north of Fort Lauderdale. On the campus are 12 Green House homes, which are small, resident-centered homes designed intentionally to counter the institutional feel of traditional nursing homes. A key feature of a Green House home is that staff and residents are empowered to live and work together as a team. Helping to make this team operate smoothly are Sages, who hold an esteemed position within the home. For this series, we interviewed Sages, all of whom have a lifetime of experience from which to draw upon to assist elders and others within the home. We will let our first interviewee, Diane, explain the purpose of a Sage: “As part of structure of this place they look for volunteers to act as Sages, because we’re old and wise and we’ve had experience working with groups, mentoring people, and problem solving with people. There is a screening process and we were trained. There are homes in this building, and there is at least one Sage assigned to each home. We come in on a volunteer basis and our function is to council, mentor, encourage the shabazim, who are the trained CNAs, within the home, to help them create a self-managed work team. And we are also there to provide contact between the elders and the shabazim and to enable them to get to know each other better. We come in on a fairly regular basis to visit in the home, we attend team meetings, if we’re invited, and hopefully give them the support they need.” . . How often do you come to the home? “It varies. I try to come two or three times a week, and that’s hard because I’m involved in other things. But I try to make it two or three times a week. I’m a resident of John Knox Village, as all the Sages are. We are lucky that we have that volunteer base to work with because everyone is on the property.” . . . . . #changingaging #agewoke #disruptaging #agepositive #greenhousehomes #sages #wisewords @johnknoxvillage #florida #pompanobeach #johnknoxvillage #ageinamerica #oldandwise #olderandwiser