Green House Blog

How Does Your Garden Grow?


“There can be no other occupation like gardening in which, if you were to creep up behind someone at their work, you would find them smiling.”  ~Mirabel Osler

The joy of gardening.  So many homes have a garden. Why?  Perhaps it is purely for its aesthetic appeal or the sense of satisfaction a harvest brings.  However, in a Green House home, gardening is not simply for the sake of the harvest, but more about the process.  When we focus less on the end result and more on the journey, we develop a keener sense of what really matters. 

What is growing in your garden?  Look beyond the flowers or the vegetables growing in your garden and reflect on what has actually transpired.  Were you able to engage elders in an activity that was fulfilling and meaningful to them?  Did you build stronger relationships?

The Green House Project would love to learn more about how you sustain and nurture your garden.  Please submit photographs and a brief description about your garden to by August 29, 2011.

The winning organization will be announced at the 4th Annual Green House Project Meeting, on September 8 & 9, 2011 and will receive a new flip camera!

 Ask yourself: How does your garden grow?

Fighting the Dragon: The Recipe for Successful Convivium

Each day, one in four Americans visit a fast food restaurant and a total of 40% of American meals are eaten outside the home. These facts are not only reflective of a culture lacking healthy eating habits, but they also suggest that there may be a loss of value in the opportunities that meals provide for building relationships, reminiscing on past experiences, and nurturing one another.

During his presentation at THE GREEN HOUSE® Project 3rdAnnual Meeting, “Food for Thought: How Choices Enhance Memory and Pleasure in Dining”, Dr. Judah Ronch encouraged us to ask the question, “How can the dining experience help elders to thrive?” Dr. Ronch, Dean of The Erickson School at UMBC, suggests that the brain is the “missing link” between dining and positive outcomes. Because our sensory memories go straight to the brain, as opposed to taking a pit stop in the language center to be altered before being stored, tastes and smells have a special ability to evoke strong emotional responses. In recognizing the emotional relationship with food, mealtime becomes not only a source of necessary calories and nutrients, but it also has the power to play a valuable role in achieving meaningful lives. Dr. Ronch explained that the potential positive outcomes can be optimized by expressing food preferences and balancing the brain’s desire to try new things.

While the experience of dining holds a number of opportunities for providing meaning in the lives of elders, meals in traditional long-term care tend to take the form of what Dr. Bill Thomas calls a “down-to-the-minute ballet”.  Food preparation and delivery is a large-scale, fast-paced, precisely-choreographed process, leaving little time (if any) to spice meals up with the principles of person-directed care. The Green House model, however, takes a radically different approach to dining, so as to support the “slow food” movement. The concept of convivium creates a shift in the traditional environment, philosophy, and practice surrounding meals that support the experience of sharing good food for pleasure.

So what is the recipe for successful convivium? Combine elder preferences with local foods, cultural traditions, and feedback from dieticians. Mix in a handful of family and community involvement, as well as ambiance to ensure that each meal is an occasion worth celebrating. And of course, the secret ingredient- a strong relationship and a true sense of knowing of each individual elder to ensure that his or her needs and wants are being met.

Consider how the meal preferences of each individual living in a Green House home may be valued and shared with all staff members, whether it is choices about flavor, meal time, or serving size. Build off of the innate emotional responses that are linked with food and take time to share memories or experiences with certain tastes and smells.  Finally, don’t let the ticking clock be a distraction from enjoying the company of others to feed the body and soul.  Bon Appétit!

**This post was written by Emily Duda, Project Associate at The Green House Project, as part of the Fighting the Dragon series.  This is a repeating topic addressing issues of Institutional Creep. Please let us know of issues you have encountered or opportunities you have had in combating institutional behaviors or ideas that are often lurking.

The Green House Project Photography Contest: Living the Brand, Telling Your Story

The Green House model embraces individuality, endorses empowerment of staff and elders, and most importantly, celebrates life. These values have contributed to the uniqueness of this model and set a new standard for the way we serve our elders. However, in order to fully appreciate the transformative power of The Green House model, the experiences of those actually living it must be shared.

The old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” is difficult to dispute. A smile captures the simple joy experienced in smelling a home-cooked meal or convening with friends. These types of memories are created daily in Green House homes across the country.

The Green House is excited to announce an opportunity for Green House adopters to share their powerful stories through photographs. We are asking you to submit one photograph and a paragraph describing how the values of this model are experienced through one or more of the following categories:

•Meaningful Engagement: the power of individual preferences, deep knowing and natural rhythms

• Team Building: education, communication, partnerships, and the development and sustainability of self-managed work teams

• Celebrating Individuality: diversity, life stories, growth and development

• Intentional Community: Involving family, volunteers and the community at large

• Dining and Convivium: training, support, empowerment and creating a home

The contest is open to Green House adopters under contract with The Green House Project.  Please submit materials to by August 24, 2011. The winning organization will be announced at the 4th Annual Green House Conference, September 8 & 9, 2011 and will receive a new flip camera!