The Eden Alternative is the brainchild of an American doctor of gerontology who defined the three plagues of nursing homes as loneliness, helplessness and boredom.
He considered those institutions to be more about the nurses and doctors and not enough about the residents. He recommended bringing plants, birds, pets and children into the settings to give residents’ lives meaning and purpose.
It gave rise to The Green House Project in the USA - individual homes in residential neighborhoods with about 10 residents in each home – much more manageable than the number of residents in typical care facilities.
The rooms are situated around a central living space including an open kitchen where the coffee is always on and someone is always cooking. There is no institutional style central nursing station- just visiting RN's as required. Personal needs are provided by trained support care persons.
I’d heard that Abbeyfield house in High River is a similar model so I went to visit it. With 10 rooms it is nicely situated close to a wooded area with pathways and ample parking and it’s within walking distance of the old town centre.
First impression walking in is it truly does smell like home with the faint smell of coffee and cooking.
The rooms are a nice size with ensuites and no kitchen or kitchenette - they’re not necessary - coffee’s right there in the kitchen/ lounge area.
Facilities include exercise room, hairdressing room, laundry room, storage space in the basement for each resident and Home Care services do visit. There’s an administrator, a day kitchen manager and a night manager with her own private room.
Breakfast is self-serve style toast cereal fruit etc. Lunch and supper is in the common area. Meals are very flexible and the kitchen manager can accommodate requests and suggestions.
There is a volunteer operating board from the local community and the president who showed us around explained that the budget per meal is almost three times that of nearby for profit establishments. This struck me as very impressive since good nutrition is so vital for successful aging.
It was built through fund raising and is a registered charity and a non-profit. It costs $1750 per month which is considerably less than most for profit elder residences. Residents have ranged in age from 60 to 92.
This is what the future of aging in place may look like. Similar homes could be developed by any group based on the Eden Alternative/Greenhouse Project. It can be a charity/fund raising model like Abbeyfield High River, faith based, service club, a cooperative or any group of 10 or so like-minded individuals that want to pool resources and create their own establishment.
It could dovetail well with those who don’t wish to age in place in their own homes, those who have already done so for a spell and are now looking for a little more dependency and anyone who does not wish to go to a more expensive communal living establishment with higher numbers of residents.