The Green House movement

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.