By Lori Gonzalez / Posted on December 12th, 2016
Lori Gonzalez is a PhD researcher at the Claude Pepper Center of Florida State University who studies alternatives to traditional nursing care and social inequality. She spoke at The 9th Annual Green House meeting about how she discovered The Green House model, and her passion to spread its message.
“Of those who were surveyed, most frail elders reported that they would choose death over a nursing home.” This was one of the first studies that I came across when I started working as a researcher at the Claude Pepper Center at Florida State University. As I delved deeper into the research literature regarding quality of care and quality of life in long-term care it became clear why the elders in the survey would say such a thing. Study after study reported resident lack of autonomy, lack of privacy, and lack of dignity. The physical environment in many nursing homes resembles the hospital instead of home. Staff and resident schedules are rigid. Unhappiness and dehumanization abound. Although the problems are well documented in the literature, few solutions are offered.
Eventually, I came across the early research on The Green House Project. Not only were Green House homes the comprehensive answer to a complex problem, but the research showed that they were effective in reducing many of the ills facing both elders and staff in the traditional nursing home. Since then, I have been following The Green House movement and advocating for the model as an independent researcher. For example, my op-ed that appeared in the Tampa Bay Times earlier this year argues that Florida, during its temporary lift of the moratorium on new nursing home bed construction, has the opportunity to build more livable, human-scale residences like Green House homes instead of the traditional, large-scale institutional model.
I have also been documenting a story of elder empowerment at the Woodlands of John Knox Village (JKV) Green House homes in Pompano Beach, Florida. When the community’s rehab facility needed replacing, several elders used their vote on the board to bring The Green House model to JKV. It took several years, lots of back and forth, but in the end—it was the elders who insisted that The Green House model was what they wanted, that according to their research, it was right for their community. I had the honor of touring the beautiful, bathed in natural light, full of life homes, and the honor of speaking with elders, guides, direct care staff, and the CEO—it is a place where elders truly rule.
I will continue to try to help spread the model because The Green House Project provides the type of long-term care that elders want and deserve.