Despite the name, the Green House movement isn’t about the kind of environment you would think. It’s about the environment our rapidly growing population of infirm elders will spend their final years. It aims to reinvent the nursing home by making it smaller and more patient centered. Speaking from the personal experience of selecting and then regularly visiting a nursing home for my mother after she suffered a serious stroke and was left incapacitated, I have long been a firm believer that nursing homes needed to look and feel and operate less like hospitals and more like extended stay hotels. If the people running these institutions (and those regulating them) would ask patients or their families, I am certain the vast majority would opt for more privacy and independence and dignity over the most aggressive and sometimes suffocating medical care. In fact, a 2011 poll conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health showed that among the top concerns of both pre-retirees and retirees expressed about nursing homes was having to spend time in an institutional environment and the loss of privacy. The aim should be to make the remaining time of the residents as enjoyable as possible not to prolong it for a few days or weeks.
This past week saw the opening of a Green House project in Baltimore serving an inner city population with modest financial resources. The 48-unit project is organized on four separately functioning floors each with 12 private bedrooms, a communal living and dining room and kitchen as well as dens, spa and porch. An individual caregiver may administer medicine, give a bath, or cook a meal thereby engendering a close, personal relationship with the residents.
Residents at Green House in West Orange, NJ
Green House project at Green Hill, West Orange, NJ
There are currently 124 Green House projects operating with 30 more under construction and another 78 in various stages of pre-construction development in locations throughout the United States.
Location of Green House projects
With the population of those aged 65+ forecast to increase from 40 million to 88.5 million over the next forty years, we are going to be faced with the challenge of not only meeting their specialized housing needs but doing so in a way that meets their human needs and honors the lifetimes of service and accomplishment.
There was a fascinating article yesterday in the Baltimore Sun by Louis Miserendino marking the 20th anniversary of the opening of Camden Yards (we attempted to see a game during that inaugural year but didn’t make it past the National Anthem as one of our kids got sick in the stands). Mr. Miserendino compares the economic development track records for Boston and Baltimore over past half century. I was surprised to see that before 1980 Boston was in worse shape than Baltimore having lost more manufacturing jobs and population had a lower median income and a higher crime rate. But in the ensuing period, Boston’s income levels have soared while Baltimore’s have stagnated.
Camden Yards, Baltimore, Maryland
He notes that Boston has not built a new baseball or football stadium during that period (though he does not mention that the Boston Garden was replaced) while Baltimore made an enormous public investment in both baseball and football stadiums downtown. He questions whether that strategy has paid off for the city as a whole. Camden Yards, of course, is the stadium that triggered an onslaught of downtown, retro baseball stadiums (e.g., Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Detroit, Denver, San Francisco). It is often held up as the poster child for how sports facilities can be used as catalyst for a downtown renaissance. The question Mr. Miserendino asks is “at what cost to the economic development prospects for the remainder of a city.
On the same day, the City Council in Lincoln, Nebraska, approved a $57 million mixed-use project that is to be built adjacent to the Pinnacle Bank Arena currently under construction. The link between the two projects was acknowledged by Councilman Carl Eskridge who said: “Part of the reason for building the arena is to have lots of things around it, places for people to live and play.” The Arena will be part of a sports-entertainment district that includes Memorial Stadium and Haymarket Park. These three facilities are the home for the Husker basketball, football and baseball teams respectively. The Haymarket itself is a successful conversion of an old warehouse district into restaurants and shops.
Haymarket project, Lincoln, Nebraska
So while this project has a lot going for it in terms of ties to the University of Nebraska and an already thriving mixed-use district that it hopes to become an integral part of, one wonders what public investments in other parts of Lincoln could not be made in order to create this mecca for sports fans.