The Green House model has added passion and purpose to my family in many ways. My grandparents, David and Twylah Haun, are Independent Living residents at John Knox Village (JKV) and they were instrumental in bringing The Green House model to their community. We have had many great conversations about the model’s potential over the years, and it has become close to my heart as well. Currently, I am pursuing my doctorate in Occupational Therapy at the University of Southern California (USC). When a professor challenged us to seek out opportunities and learn what it means to be a leader in healthcare, I immediately thought of my grandparents. This led to an exciting externship at The Woodlands at JKV. Before I stepped foot on the grounds at JKV, I was already destined to have valuable experiences simply based on the leadership skills I could learn from my grandparents.
I can still remember back in 2011 when bringing The Green House model to JKV became the main topic of our Thanksgiving meal ; My grandmother was interested and my grandfather was doubtful. Never ones to be easily convinced or to skimp on their research, they decided to take a road trip to eight different Green House homes to see this model in action. After visiting four homes, Grandfather was sold on the idea and came home to put their research into action. In the years since this initial exploratory trip, my grandparents have stayed very involved in The Green House initiative at JKV and also at a national level. They have spoken at the national Green House Meeting, contributed to The Green House blog, and helped with every aspect of creating and opening The Woodlands at JKV (including selecting paintings for the walls and dishes for the dining rooms, pictured right). Grandma has continued her active role in The Green House homes by becoming a Sage, a volunteer role that allows her to mentor and support the self managed work team to become a cohesive team and help create a real home for and with the elders.
In my program, we were discussing different models of care, and my professor brought up The Green House Project. It was something USC knew little about, but were excited to see how it could change the future. I was thrilled to be able to share my grandparents’ experiences with my 150 classmates and professors. I couldn’t wait to see the model in action! The Woodlands at JKV represents the first Green House homes in Florida, and they also offer homes dedicated to short term rehabilitation. Providing meaningful therapy in a natural environment is the ideal for an occupational therapist, and an exciting reality in the Green House homes.
I spent my externship running from meeting to meeting, soaking up as many experiences as possible, and asking questions about everything. From the staff in the homes to the people working across the whole community, I was continually impressed by the way they put the needs of the elder first, and balanced that with the success of the organization.
Some of my most meaningful interactions occurred with the elders, sharing stories of joy, belonging, and feeling safe in The Green House homes. In the end, this is why we do what we do, and it filled my heart with pride to be able to see this vision that my grandparents helped to carry forward, being lived out in such a beautiful way.
My time at JKV was a wonderful learning experience, and one that I will never forget. The Green House model is truly making a difference in the lives of the elders and those who are passionate about working with them. As a leader and therapist, I know that one of the greatest gifts I can give a client is to remind them that they are a unique individual who matters. From talking to the elders and listening to their stories, watching the direct care staff prepare meals in their home, participating in leadership meetings, and delivering mail to the homes with my grandmother, every experience taught me something valuable, and I am incredibly grateful.