CCRC Invests $60 Million in Small House Design Concept

A Massachusetts senior living provider is looking to fulfill its care continuum while also positioning itself for the next wave of senior living design through a new $60 million “small house” project.

North Hill, a nonprofit continuing care retirement community (CCRC) located in Needham, Mass. intends its “household” approach to care will not only round out the services offered on the CCRC’s campus, but also will promote resident independence through the incorporation of mild care services within the small house model.

“We’re repositioning the campus for the next evolution of senior living,” says Adam Goldman, administrator of North Hill’s Vista Terrace and Health Center.

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In 2011, the community began construction on two buildings that will incorporate the small house design: Vista Terrace and Pine’s Edge.

The small house design takes cues from the “Green House” model in long-term care, a type of design created from the ground up that gives the feeling and experience one would get from living in a traditional home.

Vista Terrace will offer what North Hill calls “enhanced living,” as this building provides up to four households of independent living residents with mild assistance of activities of daily living via the help of caregivers.

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The enhanced living features a combination of one- and two-bedroom units. In contrast to a studio-style unit in a skilled nursing facility, these apartment-style units provide more space for mobility among residents who need little assistance with activities of daily living.

Pine’s Edge is the skilled nursing model of Vista Terrace. Seven households of residents that have higher acuity needs can live in this home-like setting under the care and supervision of community staff.

While the community already contains a nursing home on its campus, the addition of Pine’s Edge looks to replace the community’s pre-existing skilled nursing facility, while also adding the “lite” care element to its independent living small house model via the help of caregivers.

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About 10-12 residents live in each household, with households of at least 10 residents having two caregivers, or “care partners” as they have been dubbed by North Hill to emphasize the relationship between the caregivers and residents, Goldman says.

“A big piece of the household is the relationship between the caregivers and the residents,” he says. “There’s more of a partnership between residents and team members, as opposed to a task-oriented relationship you would find in an institutional model.”

One of the main goals in developing the small house model relied on trying to replicate a home-like environment, says Founding Principal of JSA Architects Jim Warner, FAIA, who designed the Vista Terrace and Pine’s Edge buildings.

“We decided we wanted to research before embarking on designing, so we had to pick and choose from what worked and what didn’t work for the next generation of housing,” Warner says. “A typical home doesn’t have 72 bedrooms or long corridors. Instead, it has close proximity of living spaces like the kitchen, living room and dining rooms.”

Within each building, every resident has his or her own apartment or suite, as well as a dining room, a full kitchen and activity room. The living area where residents can congregate and socialize creates the center of the “home,” Warner says.

Several features JSA Architects included when designing the buildings were generating enough natural light within the households as well as designing for “programmatic differences.”

“Rather than being a self-contained household or unit, North Hill designed [small houses] for those who are ambulatory, or get around in a wheelchair,” says Warner. “Enabling residents to move around on their own gives them the opportunity to move between other households and promotes socialization.”

By increasing resident socialization, and satisfaction as a result, North Hill expects the new small house buildings will be in high demand as they facilitate resident choice and autonomy.

“The expanded continuum and comfort of the small house design will increase demand for independent living as the small house allows us to continue providing a high level of personalization,” says Goldman.

North Hill expects both the Vista Terrace and Pine’s Edge buildings to open in late fall 2014.

Written by Jason Oliva

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