Green House Blog

Highlighting THE GREEN HOUSE Project® Team: Claire Lucas, Project Guide

When Claire Lucas entered a nursing home for the first time, she was anticipating walking into a room filled with smiling faces with laughter echoing throughout the halls. She expected to see nurses walking alongside Elders as they’d wave hello to her, their faces gleaming with happiness and joy. She thought she’d see something resembling a real home. Instead, she was greeted by unpleasant fumes and the sound of someone calling numbers for bingo. A group of Elders were huddled around the nursing station and the atmosphere was unsettling.  Almost instantly, Claire felt like leaving – but thankfully, she stayed.

Although gerontology was never a field Claire thought to consider, the need to bring cultural change to the field was something Claire knew she had to help to achieve. Growing up listening to her grandparents stories and witnessing their love and affection, Claire knew the current way in which traditional nursing homes were run was not acceptable. To Claire, Elders held a certain value for which they needed to be appreciated. Thus, she decided to dedicate her efforts to helping reshape Elder care by working toward empowering and helping them at a time in their life when they needed it most.

Throughout her years Claire has worked in various capacities to assist people in Elderhood and at the end of life.  As Director of Facility Based Hospice & Bereavement for The Denver Hospice in Colorado, Claire oversaw hospice services including opening a new patient care center and helping The Denver Hospice apply for The Eden Registry. Prior to her work with The Denver Hospice, Claire served as the Vice President of Operations for Vivage Quality Health Partners. Today, Claire serves as a Project Guide at the Green House Project and continues to contribute her skills and experience to help establish Green House homes across the nation.

  • 19 years of experience as a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator, opening new facilities and assisting in specialty program development
  • Masters of Science in Gerontology, emphasis in Direct Service
  • Regional Vice President for nine skilled nursing facilities in Colorado
  • Eden Educator and LEAP Educator
  • Presenter at numerous national conferences, including her special interest in Alzheimer’s Disease and culture change
  • Board Member Colorado Culture Change Coalition

Claire has been incredibly active in her passion toward assisting those with Alzheimer’s. She has worked on developing some of the earliest Special Care Units and continues to remain active with those projects.

Claire enjoys international travel and visiting new places. She also enjoys theater, the arts along with the outdoors and hiking.

Dreaming Up a Community: Reflections on Housing Policy Innovations

As I sit in the recent Innovations in Housing conference, held in Atlanta, learning about how to finance new housing projects, create transit-oriented designs, and develop a way that people can age in community, I can’t help but be a bit overwhelmed by the expertise in the room and so I just remain quiet and listen. With a prevalence of (Housing and Urban Development) HUD experts, homeless housing innovators and affordable housing gurus’ surrounding me, I wonder, “what is a woman who eats, sleeps, and breathes reinvention of long term care doing here? Why would The AARP Foundation want someone like me to come here?” I was like a horse of a different color. Or they were…either way, it was clear they haven’t seen the likes of me before- I openly challenge their quest for aging in place as a misnomer. I appreciate that there is a HUGE population boom of older Americans without affordable living options, but instead of NORC’s and affordable senior directed rental builds, I push for commitment to innovation that grows integrated communities and offer community based supports to aging process for all ages (babies and adults and teens are aging also, you know). This conference drew me out of my familiar waters, and gave me the opportunity to listen to a new perspective.

Here’s the thing about listening, not being the most expert in the room…

It usually ends with a deeper understanding. This may not shock us Green House folks. Listening yields understanding- in fact, it is what we tout, right? We listen to those who know best (ELDERS, Shahbazim…) and respond accordingly. So that’s what I did. I listened for three days. My quieted and focused brain doing what it sometimes forgets how to do… imagining. And low and behold it clicked.
The Green House model is a model of multi-income housing for elders, as well as a pathway of personal growth for those who interact with it, so why not consider it as a development collaborative with other projects of similar mission? Housing initiatives are striving to reinvigorate communities plagued by loneliness, helplessness, and boredom in their own rights and this Green House model has a community engagement piece that is palpable. Why wouldn’t we consider the opportunity to raise Green House Homes as a living option in revitalized communities, but also as a means to revitalize communities? Let’s look to work with Habitat for Humanity and other community revitalization efforts in urban and rural areas, and seek partnership.

Imagine: A former trailer park or empty urban lot converted to a mixed income neighborhood with variety of home ownership and rental options which are supporting elders of varying abilities, young people and new families, middle aged employable adults. Did I mention this neighborhood boasts a really amazing community based Green House home? This Green House home employs some people who live in the area and others just know is a place of safety, fun, and dignity in the neighborhood. Offerings like community concerts, transportation, and wellness based opportinties are shared. The community pulls together to support people who live with dementia alongside families who need help juggling responsabilities of a different nature. Kids and elders connect in the back yards- engaging in play and learning lessons of respect, wisdom, and patience from each other. The teens can stop over to teach social media and in return get advice on managing conflict, navigating precarious relationships, and how to die with dignity.

Sounds like a dream worth pursuing to me…Innovations in housing should be connected intimately with innovations in long term living. We’ve got too much to share to segregate campuses and isolate elders from the very neighborhoods they built. Stretch the possibilities, and use development grants to fund communities with a whole spectrum of integrated supports, especially a small home for the neighbors to move into and age together “in community” when aging “in place” becomes unmanageable, regardless of chronological age.

Thank you to The AARP Foundation for sponsoring a Green House adopter to attend this conference and add their perspective to this important conversation.  

Coaching for Partnership & Adult Learner Centered Education

Last week, from September 24-27, the Green House Project hosted the Adult Learner Centered Education (ALCE) program for Green House adopters only at their home office in Arlington, VA. Green House adopter s from across the country joined us for the four-day educational training which began with two days of Coaching for Partnership programming, followed by two days of the ALCE curriculum. Green House adopters came from Arkansas, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Wisconsin came to participate in this critical educational training program.

During the first two days of training participants spent time exploring the concept of self-managed work teams, how to present an issue by balancing support and accountability, active listening and paraphrasing.  During their time learning these skills, participants learned the three elements of coaching for partnership which are: creating a valued relationship, clearly presenting an issue, and gathering information.

The final two days of programming focused on teaching the Adult Learner-Centered approach to use as a Green House educator as participants go back to their Green House homes and teach the Coaching for Partnership curriculum to their respective Clinical Support Teams. Program participants spend much time using role playing practice to perfect the skills and techniques they learned and spent the final day of the ALCE program teaching a section of the curriculum to their peers.

Congratulations to all the graduates of the September 2013 ALCE program!

Building an Elder Friendly Future

In a recent blog on, Kavan Peterson discusses the need to build an elder friendly future. According to Jim Diers, internationally renowned community-builder and former director of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, it means that we’ve created a world in which we’ve separated “the built environment from the natural and social environment, even though that’s not how we live. We separate our elders and our young people and people with disabilities. We can’t create community when we’re breaking up.”

Under the Aging Your Way initiative created by Denise Klein, CEO of the Seattle non-profit King County Senior Services, individuals came together and were asked to envision the lifestyle they’d want as elders. While individual answers varied, there were several themes which matched those of the Green House homes.

One of the themes was the need to be recognized as more than just an elder with needs. Instead, they wanted to be seen as individuals who could contribute their knowledge and wisdom, continue to learn and also be able to participate in outdoor activities. Earlier this year, residents and staff of the Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community took to the outdoors and did some woodwork. The results were several pieces of furniture for each home in the Woodland Park neighborhood: a dining room table which seats 14, a hutch, a game table, side table and matching bookshelves. Green House homes empower Elders to actively participate in meaningful activities, giving them the autonomy and control to plan their day as they choose. Not only does this eliminate the structure of institutionalized care, but it also works to shape an elder-friendly world outside the home.

As the process of aging begins, the need to be surrounded by loved ones grows even stronger. This feeling of belonging is grows even stronger when Elders remain connected to their community in a purposeful way, and with intergenerational engagement.  With the initiatives set up by Peterson and Klein and with Green House homes working to empower Elders, the potential to fully integrate Elders and the community is not only a possibility, but a necessity for a rich and robust world.