Green House Blog

Go Small and Go Home — Ingrid Weaver and the Porter Hills Green House Project

Ingrid Weaver, CEO, Porter Hills

Buy in bulk, most people say. That’s how you save. So they flock to big box stores and buy big boxes of things to get them on the cheap. Likewise, the companies that serve people buy in bulk—like fast food chains—and the ingredients are cheap and there’s not a lot of variation on the menu but it’s affordable to the people they serve. The companies make money and we save money. And this is how it goes.

And so went elder care. Large institutional facilities housing and caring for large groups of elders was seemingly the only way to make the field of elder care financially feasible—both for the entities offering it and for the seniors needing it.

Ingrid Weaver worked in a large institutional nursing home when she started as a CNA while in college.

“Hurry up, go in, take care of everyone, and get done. It was very task oriented. It was almost like every senior you cared for was a task as opposed to a person. I was taught that way…and it was discouraging,” she said. “For me and for the elders, I’m sure.”

Twenty-five years ago Ingrid took a job at Porter Hills working with elders with irreversible dementia. She discovered that Porter Hills’ care was much more progressive than her previous employer’s. Instead of focusing on what elders couldn’t do, the Porter Hills staff was encouraged to focus on what they could do.

“It was a social model instead of a medical model,” she said. “If someone couldn’t tie their shoes, we got them a pair of shoes they could put on by themselves, with Velcro.”

Still, older buildings provided challenges to making alterations that would have been able to help improve ease of care.

“We had one main kitchen and three dining rooms that had to serve 600 residents. So if we were going to say that everyone could eat whatever they wanted whenever they wanted…it posed a challenge to existing systems,” said Ingrid. “It was all centered efficiencies and what worked well for staff.”

These challenges, combined with the progressive philosophy at Porter Hills, encouraged a dialogue to begin. This dialogue helped develop a foundation for a new type of care community that would cater to smaller groups of people based on their wants and needs. The staff at Porter Hills recognized that culture change was not a one-time event; it’s a process that requires continual transformation and growth.

And that’s when The Green House Project came into view. It not only offered a way forward for the design of the physical buildings and philosophical framework of care. It also challenged the big box, large institutional financial model for care.

In the smaller Green House homes, there was no longer a need for the legacy model of staffing that was necessary in the institutional care facilities. Instead, universal caregivers are responsible for a continuum of care within the home. They do everything from cooking individual meals to housekeeping to activities support and nursing care. As a result, Porter Hills didn’t require as many administrative and managerial staff because the empowered self-managed team worked collaboratively to support the elders and problem-solve issues.

Having fewer administrative staff saved money—as much as $124,000 per year, according to Weaver. It also meant that caregivers would form tighter bonds with the elders. And that meant better care.

“We have one elder who loves being outside,” says Ingrid. “She goes out and tends to flowers in her wheelchair. Because of the design, staff can see her from the windows while still caring for others. Making sure elders are safe while still having autonomy—this is much more difficult to offer in a traditional nursing home. And just that freedom…it’s meaningful to her.”

Green House Educator Program: Culture Change is a Journey

Last week, the 16 Eddy Village Green House homes graciously hosted 26 people from various parts of the country as they embarked on the week-long training through THE GREEN HOUSE® Project Educator program. The Educator program is a “train the trainer” program in which participants are equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to return to their respective sites and provide their teams with the core education that is the foundation of the Green House model. 

The Educator program began in 2009 and the August 2013 Educator class was the largest in its history! Participants represented 9 different states including individuals from the first Green House homes in Tupelo, Mississippi. Other states represented were: Florida, New York, Wyoming, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

Each day of the 5 day training had a dominant theme: Overview of the overarching Green House model philosophy & review of the 6 principles of Adult Learner Centered Education (Day 1), Effective Communication (Day 2), Roles & the Self-Managed Work Team (Day 3), The Elder (Day 4) and finally a synthesis of the week and creation of an Educator Code of Ethics (Day 5).

As a result of that diversity, it was a week filled with many thoughtful discussions and learning experiences…

  • “We are the glue that holds the house together in partnership with the elders”
  • “It’s not about your expectations, it’s about the elder’s expectations”
  • As Shahbazim, “We are the eyes, we see what others don’t see”
  • “As an administrator, I am used to knowing what to do…but after stepping back things started to happen. That’s what I’ll have to do in the Green House home”
  • “ You took the boredom away” (Elder, after participating in meaningful engagement with Educator participant)

This graduating class brings the number of Green House Educators nationwide to 113!  We look forward to watching the number of Educators continue to grow as they spread across the nation to light the way! 

Congratulations to all!

Please share your good wishes to this new team of graduates!

McKnight's Features Green House Pioneer, Steve McAlilly

A recent profile in McKnight’s Long Term Care News, features Steve McAlilly, CEO of Mississippi Methodist Senior Services, the first Green House homes. “Thanks to McAlilly’s nurturing, the Green House model has grown from concept to phenomenon.”

The article profiles Steve’s upbringing, and the winding path that brought him to the helm of Methodist Senior Services in Tupelo, MS.  It has been 10 years since the first Green House homes opened, and it is astounding to look back at all the factors that aligned to make this dream a reality.  McAlilly says the “great adventure” of the Green House taught him how to “move forward without knowing all the answers.”

Chief Operating Officer,  Susan Frazier, decribes the leadership gifts that have contributed to the success of Steve’s organization and The Green House model, “He demonstrated you can work through the regulatory challenges, the capital challenges,” Frazier says. She calls him a “profound leader” who is warm and gracious, and known by all the direct care staff.

To read the full profile in McKnight’s >>



The story behind the Weinberg Foundation: Harry and Jeanette Weinberg

The recent announcement of new investments in THE GREEN HOUSE® Project has made it an exciting time for all us working to promote the replication of this national initiative!

Harry and Jeanette Weinberg
Wedding Photo 1932

We thought you might like to know a little more about the special couple behind the Weinberg Foundation.   It’s a story that begins with parents that immigrated to this country with a lot of hope…but not a lot of money.  


1980’s in Hawaii

It’s about a son who learned early on what it takes to be a business entrepreneur, and a person who never forgot what it was like to be poor.

To read more about this thoughtful and generous couple, click here 


The Green House Facebook Community Grows to 2000 Friends!

Over the past 3 years, The Green House Project has established a robust community on Facebook.  This online gathering place involves, current Green House homes, long term care providers, elders, advocates, family members, policymakers, consumers, and many others that make of the mosaic of this movement.

This page shares posts about a variety of things that make up the culture of The Green House Community:

  • Highlights of the amazing work from Green House homes around the country
  • Updates from the national initiative to create real home, meaningful life and empowered staff in long term care
  • News and current events that help to change the paradigm of aging
  • Fun and inspiration (don’t we all need a dose of that now and again?)

As we grow beyond 2000 friends, are are eager for more people to join in the conversation.  Share your thoughts, dreams, stories and vision of how this world can be a more nurturing place for elders to live, grow and thrive.  Together, we are making a difference!

Click on the icon to join our facebook page: