Assisted living in short supply for elders
The vision is clear, but still only in the planning stages: the Island needs a multi-level continuing care retirement community, according to the directors of Vineyard Village, Inc. - Polly Brown, David Roush, Mike Loberg, and John Schneider. In the meantime, the directors are seeking to put in place quite soon a kind of "concierge service" to help seniors stay in their own homes as long as possible.
While they work on finding land and financing for a bricks-and-mortar facility, the board members of Vineyard Village are reaching out to independent and quasi-independent seniors to find out what gaps they see in the services now available, either because they do not qualify for help, or because they cannot find the specific help they need here. Advertisements in the Island papers this week seek to find out what kinds of assistance Island seniors need at home now. They hope that a program could begin soon and operate side by side with the planning of the residential complex, according to Ms. Brown and Mr. Roush.
A good place to retire
As long as a senior citizen is physically and financially independent, Martha's Vineyard is a good place to retire, according to Vineyard Village directors. It's a beautiful Island, and there are lots of worthwhile opportunities for anyone willing to seize them. Even as one's independence begins to wane a bit, the Vineyard provides several kinds of support for those who qualify.
The various Councils on Aging provide seniors with expeditions off-Island, weekly social activities and luncheons, classes and instruction, medical and insurance advice, and a host of entertaining events. "The Lift," the "Blueberry Van," and the VTA buses take people from place to place, including to Boston and Hyannis for medical appointments. The state-funded Elder Services is another layer of support, including a hot lunch from Meals-on-Wheels every weekday for those who can't get around. The Visiting Nurse Services of Martha's Vineyard Community Services is still another resource for seniors. For those who meet income guidelines, Island Elderly Housing (IEH) provides subsidized housing and some support services, but it has a long waiting list.
Despite all these resources, for active seniors the potential loss of their self-reliance looms just over the horizon like a destructive and unpredictable storm.
As seniors live into their 70s and 80s and beyond, some may need to move from independent living to assisted living, and a few eventually to full-time nursing care in a place like Windemere Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. On the Vineyard today, there is independent living (in one's original home or in an apartment), and there is Windemere. But, according to Ms. Brown, there are few accommodations in between, and when one can no longer get by with the available help from the community, one must consider moving off-Island. A market study completed last year by Life Management, Inc., a consulting firm, determined that there is a demand here for a facility such as Vineyard Village.
Filling the gaps
Vineyard Village, which is conceived on the model of Beacon Hill Village in Boston, would be a facility on the Island with quarters for assisted living at various levels, as well as independent living and nursing care. Such a facility would work in concert with Windemere and complement its services. Each resident would have available the services he or she needs at any particular stage, and an outreach function of the model would provide limited assisted living for those still in their own homes. This "concierge service" might find seniors reliable help with building maintenance, yard work, transportation, meals, cleaning, or other necessities. It would not attempt to duplicate existing programs, Ms. Brown stressed, but would fill in the gaps.
Ms. Brown and Mr. Roush told The Times that the directors envision a residential complex near to one of the down-Island towns, with 100 units for residents and 40 for staff members. Housing for staff is crucial because of the shortage of affordable housing on the Vineyard. Evidence of that is that Windemere is now full, but with an empty wing it could open if it could find workers to staff it.
There are as yet no architect's plans for Vineyard Village, but Mr. Roush sees a few isolated cottages for independent living and four apartment complexes for various levels of care. The needs of seniors are fluid, he points out. A resident might need to move temporarily to a higher level of care (for example, to recover from surgery or illness) and then return to his or her previous level. Because Vineyard Village would be a large and dense cluster of residences, plans would need to be approved by the Martha's Vineyard Commission, with whom the directors have already begun to talk, and the town they choose.
Mr. Roush told The Times that Vineyard Village, although a non-profit organization, will not be financed by fundraising, but by state bonds repaid from operating surpluses. The start-up money to buy the land and provide equity for the bonds will come from perspective residents buying into the facility before it is built.
Mr. Roush is an attorney and health-care consultant. In May, 1997, he co-founded Roush & Associates, a firm which specializes in providing management, development, and advisory services to clients involved in senior care and post-acute services.
Mr. Roush said that the financing for Vineyard Village will be very complicated, as there will be five kinds of facilities on the campus. Asked if any of the units will be affordable, Mr. Roush replied that some will, but that the affordable units will have to be financed by charging more to full-paying residents.
Ms. Brown, well-known on the Island as a volunteer and board member of the hospital and Hospice, commented that the directors have decided not to try to raise money by contributions in order not to compete with the other worthy projects now before Vineyarders.
Seniors who wish to be part of the Vineyard Village survey should contact Liz Dunleavy at Roush & Associates, 1-781-213-9099, ext. 25.