By Dr. Bill Thomas / Posted on December 5th, 2011
A long life ought to entitle one to a dignified old age. We may not be able to cure diseases such as Alzheimer’s but we can offer our elders a life that is rich with kindness, patience, encouragement and appreciation. The creation of such a life is just what Green House homes were designed to do.
Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, who serves as the leader of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, recently examined this challenge in an op-ed that ran in the Sacramento Bee.
In Pomona, construction is starting on two modest homes that could revolutionize the way California cares for seniors who can no longer live independently. Residents will not experience the long sterile hallways, hospital-style rooms or the boredom and loneliness too often found in traditional nursing homes. Instead, these “Green House” homes – the first of their kind in California – will provide seniors with quality care and something just as important to their well-being: the feeling of being in a real home.
There is a world of difference between places that aspire to be “home-like” and those that attempt to make a real home for real flesh and blood, living and breathing human beings.
Much has been written about the “silver tsunami” of boomers now entering their retirement years and expected to live longer than previous generations. No state has as much at stake as California, which will see its number of seniors 85 and older triple in the next 30 years.
These trends are daunting, but the good news is that we know more than ever before about what it takes to provide the most vulnerable seniors with the care they need and the dignity they deserve.
Although conventional wisdom tells us that aging is a bad thing, the truth is that aging is a very good thing which, if approached correctly, will enrich the lives of people of all ages.
A decade ago, an idea like this would have been unimaginable on the basis of cost alone. But more than 100 Green House homes in 19 states have now proven otherwise. In fact, a major study published in the Seniors Housing and Care Journal concludes that Green House homes cost the same as traditional nursing homes to operate but deliver vastly better care and quality of life.
Thanks to leadership from state Sen. Elaine Alquist, D-Santa Clara, California recently took an important step by clarifying its regulatory requirements to ensure that rules designed for bigger institutions 30 years ago were not inadvertently preventing smaller Green House homes from being built. The project under way in Pomona is a direct result of the updated policy.
“Senator Elaine Alquist”— this is a name that will go down in California legislative history. While it is true that it took the energies and drive of many people to bring California’s first Green House homes into being, without Senator Alquist—- it never would have happened. With skill and tenacity she built support for this innovation and then translated that support into action. This work is the very essence of “good government.”
These first Green House homes will, indeed, change the world of long-term care in California. Elders living in California Green House homes may never know her name but they will all owe her a debt of gratitude. On behalf of those elders, I say, “Thank you Senator Alquist.”