updated Dec. 13, 4pm
Healthy Aging Martha’s Vineyard, an Island senior advocate group, rolled out sweeping plans to change itself and to encourage construction of shared group-living housing as part of its 2018-20 plan last week.
At Healthy Aging M.V.’s fourth annual meeting, director Paddy Moore said the group envisions construction of six housing units, each with 12 residents, and announced formal relationships with Martha’s Vineyard Community Services and with the Martha’s Vineyard Commission. “We are also developing relationships with the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital around advanced care planning,” she said.
Ms. Moore said that Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, the Island’s largest community service entity, will become the fiscal agent for Healthy Aging M.V., focusing on targeted support services and communications, including a monthly newsletter and a healthy-aging website. “MVCS will keep our books, hold our funds, pay bills, and keep track of money,” Ms. Moore explained this week. Under the arrangement, Healthy Aging M.V. will hire a full-time executive director, working at MVCS.
The Martha’s Vineyard Commission will provide planning support, including data and analysis on population. The commission can champion elders and Healthy Aging M.V. Islandwide, and provide important planning tools, Ms. Moore said.
Both organizations will join the Healthy Aging M.V. board. The commission has granted $10,000 to the group’s expanded effort, and Healthy Aging M.V. will ask Island towns for an additional $71,000 at annual town meetings to fund the executive director position, she said.
The Healthy Aging M.V. annual meeting also highlighted several other initiatives to help seniors, expected to be one-third of Island population by 2030, including reducing incidence of falls, and increasing advance care planning before elder services are required.
With more than 70 volunteers, Healthy Aging uses workgroups to address senior healthcare priorities. For 2018-2020, those efforts will focus on mental health, implementation of Martha’s Vineyard Hospital’s new “medical home model” and geriatric training for all Island medical and social service providers, improved transportation for seniors, particularly relating to off-Island medical appointments, and other programs related to elder caregiving.
Housing and housing supports were a centerpiece of discussion at the annual meeting.
Ms. Moore described an environment in which many seniors (56 percent) have no family or support network on-Island, do not qualify, or can’t find affordable housing options on Island.
Ms. Moore said market demand would support 72 residential-care clients, and she outlined an ambitious two-part program to serve them, including the 61 residents at Windemere Nursing and Rehabilitation Center at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital (MVH), which reportedly runs a deficit of more than $1 million a year. Healthy Aging M.V. envisions that MVH/Windemere would staff the facilities, freeing the Windemere facility for other uses. Healthy Aging and hospital officials have discussed the idea as MVH completes its search for a new chief executive officer.
Peter Temple, executive director of the Island-based Donors Collaborative and an early adopter of the Healthy Aging M.V. mission, explained details of a feasibility study completed on the potential of using the Green House model for elder housing.
The Green House concept is a 15-year-old model with 153 residential homes nationwide, in which 10 to 12 elders live in a residential setting (private rooms and bath, home-cooked meals) with assisted-living skilled nursing care. Green Houses are designed as an alternative to large-scale institutional elder housing.
Mr. Temple said the envisioned six-home, 72-resident Island Green House financial model can produce positive operating income because of a payer mix, including 78 percent Medicaid, 19 percent private pay, and 3 percent Medicare funding sources.
Healthy Aging M.V.’s commitment to collaboration and regionalization has made it a bona fide contender to share in a $1 million federal grant to Massachusetts eldercare organizations, David Stevens, director of the state’s Council on Aging, told the annual meeting.
Mr. Stevens said only 20 of the state’s more than 300 councils on aging will receive funds from the grant, which is expected to be dispersed in late winter or early spring 2019.
The prospective grant comes from the federal Administration for Community Living, which was “created around the fundamental principle that older adults and people with disabilities of all ages should be able to live where they choose, with the people they choose, and with the ability to participate fully in their communities,” according to the federal agency’s website.
“Your program is a model. It incorporates two aspects we value: regionalizing and collaboration,” he told about 60 attendees at the fourth annual Healthy Aging Martha’s Vineyard meeting. Mr. Stevens is the second state eldercare official to visit the Island in a week. Alice Bonner, state secretary of elder affairs, also met with Island eldercare providers recently.
Mr. Stevens said that regional and collaborative efforts for cost efficiency will be more important in the current political environment. “There will be cuts in Medicaid, and down the road there will be changes in the Social Security system,” he predicted.
Box: Aging well: Group’s meteoric rise
By Jack Shea
Four years ago, the new and very grassroots Martha’s Vineyard Healthy Aging Task Force convened its first meeting, attracting 70 or so Island healthcare providers to ponder a simple question: What does the aging of America mean to Martha’s Vineyard?
The task force also proposed that aligning the several dozen healthcare organizations around that single focus was a good idea. Now, collaboration and regionalization are typically not popular themes here — the Island tends to like its individualism, and doesn’t like perceived encroachment. Frankly, as a reporter in the audience that day, the task force mission seemed a bit of a reach.
But something happened that day that has catapulted the now renamed Healthy Aging Martha’s Vineyard into a model program, lauded by state elder care officials as the future of elder healthcare.
The idea appealed to the healthcare pros that day. Maybe the presence of Paddy Moore and Cindy Doyle helped. Maybe it just made sense, but they signed up for working groups, and have participated in their work.
The result of that work is eye-popping. Dukes County got on board early, and commissioned a study that showed the Island is older than the rest of America, and what the Vineyard’s elders perceive as their needs. Task Force volunteers ran with that study into the community, and raised awareness.
Within a year, the group had a one-stop website, firststopmv.org, for elders and the families with links to all the health organizations on Island, had organized the four Councils on Aging into a single voice, lobbied at town meetings for funding, and got busy in competition for grant funding. Individual donations began showing up.
By 2015, the now named Healthy Aging M.V. surveyed nearly 5,000 Island seniors, and half of them responded, with details on their lives and needs. Healthy Aging M.V. quickly turned that to real effect, such as programs on balance and fitness at the Y under a new director of senior programs.
By 2016, at the macro level, Healthy Aging M.V. reorganized its work groups around new information, and evolved strategies and metrics from a now robust database. They began studying the humane Green House elder housing model, lobbying for zoning changes that have led two towns to change their zoning bylaws to permit accessory apartments, and provided counseling and psychological training to Island builders, architects, and occupational therapists to enhance their work and interactions with elders.
This fall, Healthy Aging M.V. reinvented itself again by inviting Martha’s Vineyard Community Services and the Martha’s Vineyard Commission to be key players in its mission, is looking to begin its vision of community housing, and is in dialogue with Martha’s Vineyard Hospital for win-win scenarios.
Could be that’s what those 70 people saw four years ago: a win-win from a rising tide that would lift everybody’s boat.
Updated with details of collaboration with MVCS, MVC.