Green House Blog

How They Made the Mold

We had a trip down memory lane and the inside scoop from two innovative

The first Green House home in Tupelo, MS.

leaders on the most recent Elevate Eldercare episode. Susan interviewed the creator and founder of The Green House Project, Dr. Bill Thomas, MD, and the CEO of Methodist Senior Services (MSS), Steve McAlilly. MSS pioneered the first Green House homes on the campus of Traceway Retirement Community in Tupelo, Miss., in 2003.

It almost didn’t happen at Traceway. MSS had dedicated funds, to the tune of 12 million dollars, to build what would have been a pretty traditional facility. Emboldened by the vision Bill cast, Steve persuaded the board to take a leap of faith. We often talk at Green House about building the bridge as we walk across it. I guess that DNA harkens back to when Traceway “made the mold,” to quote Bill.

Among our favorite questions at Green House are: “Would you have it at home?” and “Would you do it that way at home?” These questions were birthed years ago as the Tupelo team wrestled through what should go into those first homes.

There is this constant pull between Real Home, a Green House core value and an institutionalized way of doing things, which we call institutional creep and often refer to it as the institutional dragon always lurking just outside the home. Bill said, “it is always, always, always easier to do things the usual way…. The pressure to conform to the traditional system is enormous and it never lets up.” But pushing the easy button doesn’t ultimately get us to how Steve describes Green House homes: “a vessel that enables life and living and loving and learning together.”

More than just a history lesson on Green House homes, the conversation moved us to consider how to not waste a pandemic. I love that Steve said, “It is a sin to not do as much as we can as fast as we can; the real sin is apathy. The sin is accepting the status quo and not acting to change it.”
The pandemic has shed a light on long-term care and rather than vilify “traditional” nursing homes we need to seize this moment to do something different. Both Mary and I resonated with what Bill described as, “big house, small life, small house, big life.”

When it comes to the deep knowing of elders, reciprocity, interdependence, building community, and autonomy and control, smaller is better. I think there is opportunity for any long-term care organization to consider how they might take bigger sections of their homes and make them smaller.

On our podcast I got to share one of my favorite books, “Community: The Structure of Belonging” by Peter Block. Whether you work in long-term care, are a part of a church, social group, or a neighborhood, there is application to you. Bottom line—we need to be intentional about creating community. It doesn’t just happen.

In 2008, Block wrote that we live in an age of isolation. That is even more true in this pandemic era. What Thomas, McAlilly, and Block teach us is that we can author a different future for our elders and for ourselves if we seize upon this opportunity to shift the paradigm once again.

For even more insights and takeaways, take a listen to the original interview and then join Mary and me for, “Let Me Say This About That.”
>>Listen HERE on Apple Podcast
>>Listen HERE on Spotify
>>Listen HERE on Stitcher

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Register Today for The Distinguished Speaker Webinar Series and OnSite Workshops
  • Cultural Transformation Through Green House, January 9 (3:00p ET). Join Green House Senior Director, Susan Ryan to hear an Overview of The Green House model as you’ve never heard it before! THE GREEN HOUSE believes that all elders deserve to grow and thrive no matter where they reside, and that to impact lives in a meaningful way, it takes more than environmental change. To make meaningful change a reality, it is imperative to infuse the entire organization with optimal systems and structural changes that create a cohesive approach to elder-directed care.  Register>>
  • Innovations and Trends in Elder Care, February 1 (3:00p ET). Lisa McCracken, Director of Senior Living Finance Research and Development with Ziegler will provide an overview of the key trends and innovations in Elder Care. This is the opening session of our Business Case series which will shed light on how The Green House model is a viable solution amidst the backdrop of a dynamic economy and healthcare climate.Register>>
  • Improving Long Term Care Workforce With Strategies that Work, February 22 (3:00p ET). Robyn Stone, Senior Vice President of Research, LeadingAge, will provide an overview of the demographics, trends and challenges of the workforce in Elder Care. This is the opening session of our Workforce series. which will identify practices within The Green House model that create the potential for successful workforce development. Register>>
  • Living with Dementia: New Perspectives, March 22 (3:00p ET). Dr. Al Power, author of Dementia Beyond Drugs and Dementia Beyond Disease, will look at the experience of dementia through the frame of well-being, and explore how this perspective is challenged, both by brain changes, our attitudes, and care systems. Register>>