Green House Blog

From the ChangingAging Blogstream: This Is What It’s All About!

Editors Note: The Green House® Project Blog is a member of the ChangingAging Blogstream. We will regularly feature ChangingAging Blogstream content regarding the Green House® Project movement. Visit to learn more.

By Allen Power, MD, Eden Mentor at St. John’s Home in Rochester, NY

Allen Power’s Blog

It has not been a smooth road for St. John’s in our efforts to build Green Houses® out in communities around Rochester. There has been a lot of resistance from Federal regulators who can’t imagine how we can keep 20 elders safe when living 10 miles from the main campus, or how the houses might be effectively surveyed along with the rest of the organization.

This is a case of “not seeing the forest for the trees”. Even though our first two houses are several months away from completion, we are already being shown the real reasons why we are doing this.

You see, the first two Green Houses will be in the center of a new townhouse community called Arbor Ridge, in the suburb of Penfield. It’s a multi-generational community, but the majority of people who have purchased townhouses so far are over 55. And even though the Green Houses are just being framed, several different members of the community have already called to inquire if living at Arbor Ridge will raise the likelihood that they or their family members could receive consideration to move into our Green Houses in the future! Far from the “Not in my backyard” syndrome, people in the community are excited by this new approach to elder care.

Community Green Houses do more than provide high quality care and well-being. They are already creating aging in community, as even during construction their neighbors are seeing them as a viable place for meaningful life and continued engagement, should their needs increase.

Arbor Ridge
Soon-to-be Green House

7 thoughts on “From the ChangingAging Blogstream: This Is What It’s All About!

  1. The Green House Project appreciates the support and visionary leadership afforded by the Department of Health in New York to make these community homes become a reality!

  2. You know, I really applaud these efforts; and wish you the best dealing with the gov’t. bureaucracy. And just to lighten the frustration for you, might I recommend the relatively new Mark Harmon translation of Franz Kafka’s “The Castle”…beside offering deep insight into the human condition, the new translation reveals Kafka’s blistering humor toward the plodding German bureaucracy of the early 20th century. I have never laughed so hard over a book…

    One more thought/question: Given the economic realities for so many elders these days, should we not be considering how to house, feed and care for the HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of low-income elders soon to enter their later years BEFORE focusing on creating wonderful little models that house just a relatively few?

  3. @Charles — Thanks for being such a great participant in the ChangingAging Blogstream, you’ve posted many great comments. “The Castle” is a favorite of mine. I have the standard translation by the Muir’s so I will definitely check out Harmon’s take.

    I think the Green House Project folks can best address your question, but I would ask what makes you think this model can’t be provided to hundreds of thousands of people? The Green House model has been proven financially feasible to operate at the same cost as a traditional nursing home that provides care to low-income elders. It’s not a boutique model of care designed for the wealthy — it’s for everybody. Dr. Thomas’ vision and the stated goal of the Green House Project is to make the model available in every community in the nation.

    It’s sort of a sad irony that you assume low-income elders couldn’t get access to something like the Green House Project because it’s too “wonderful.” It’s an example of how desperately we need to raise society’s expectations of what old age can and should be like.

    As Dr. Thomas frequently says, It Can Be Different.

  4. The mission of The Green House Project is to partner with organizations, advocates, and communities to lead the transformation of institutional long-term care by creating viable homes that spread THE GREEN HOUSE® Project vision – demonstrating more powerful, meaningful, and satisfying lives, work, and relationships.

    In that way, we are committed to implementing and evolving a model that will be available for ALL people by working within current regulatory and reimbursement models. Additionally, we are very interested in partnering with policy leaders to support and incentivize organizations to adopt more innovative and person-centered models of care.

    These meaningful and sustainable changes can only occur when our mindset about aging shifts to view our elders from a developmental perspective, rather than declinist. To see our elders as fellow humans who deserve to live in an environment where they have purpose and opportunities for meaningful engagement, growth and relationships; only then, will we be able to see widespread change of the current model of Long Term Care.

    The current model of Long Term Care is broken, and before our behavior can truly shift, our cognition must shift. Thank you for being a part of the conversation that will move things in the right direction… toward a just and honoring society for all.

  5. Thanks for your responses. This is very exciting and, in my mind, unprecedented behavior among neighbors of long-term care facilities.

    Charles raises an important question. My first response is that the Green House was designed to be small because thinking in terms of large numbers creates the slippery slope to institutional care that so many people despise. As soon as you have more than 10 – 12 people, there lies the danger of beginning to think of “efficiencies of scale” (i.e., goodby to individualized life and care!).

    We can build lots of Green Houses, as Kavan suggests, but I think the ultimate solution to the coming age boom goes beyond this. Please see my Changing Aging post from May 18th entitled, “What Is Our Current Box?”

  6. Hi Charles and others! Aren’t we all looking for a better way to support all people in communities- everywhere. As THE GREEN HOUSE PROJECT(R) takes hold in a country which most often seeks the fastest, most efficient, and most indignant models of care, from drive by dentistry to urgent care abundance I often pause.

    It feels like Green House Homes are flying in the face of that.

    Then I remind myself that convenience isn’t always the most moral, and it certainly doesn’t yield what the current Elder’s or emerging elders (regardless of income) are asking for. What are they asking for? A health care system that is about health (which it currently is not); that actually cares about people (which, it currently does not); in a system that is decipherable to all people (no further commentary needed).

    As I, a Guide to a most exciting community Green House Home project in Rochester NY, lay awake.. wondering how to show the world that people are not commodities, that age that age doesn’t deny one of health opportunities regardless of physical needs, and aging and needs don’t pre-empt care. I can’t wait to see how the Eden Alternative and The Green House Project combined can bring a wave of community connection that seems lost in today’s society.

    At the play ground today, I watched my 2 year old engage with a most incredible community elder, and in the most honest way she could, invite him to her sister’s birthday party. When that happens for elder needing long term care (and it has, and will continue to) and the system can support him and all his needs coming to know and grow her in all of and all of mine..That’s where the universally attainable magic in The Green House Homes lies.

    It’s not a building.. it’s a paradigm shift which is imperative for our success as a culture.

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