Green House model homes will replace Windemere

$34 million project integrates innovative elder housing approach.

This is a proposed site plan for the Green House elder home project in Edgartown.

Navigator Elder Homes is working with Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, Healthy Aging M.V., and other elder services on the Island to develop a replacement for the Windemere Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

Navigator is a certified developer of the Green House elder home model, which seeks to redefine residential care and give elders the privacy they deserve, as well as the support they rely on. The project will cost Navigator approximately $34 million from the design and planning stage to construction and first opening, and will be the largest development of its kind on the Island, according to Paddy Moore, chair of the advisory council of Healthy Aging M.V.

Renee Lohman, president of Navigator Homes of Martha’s Vineyard, presented a project update to the Healthy Aging advisory council. Lohman said the project will involve five new Cape-style homes located on a 12-acre plot of land in Edgartown. Each home will house 14 elders, and will include individual bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchens for all residents. The Green House model was first developed by Bill Thomas, a geriatrician who re-envisioned what home care means for elders. Instead of housing elders in a close-quarters space, the Green House model orients home care toward independence and freedom, while providing the optimum level of assistance. Each home has a large living area surrounding a hearth for congregating and activities, and individual residents have access to a large, screened-in porch.

The separate buildings will become part of a “pocket neighborhood” that Lohman said is meant to encourage community building and interaction. 

The elder homes will be designed by LWDA Design, an architecture and planning firm based in Concord that designs senior and small house environments around the country.

“There are many amenities we have considered for each of these homes, in addition to staff offices and many other aspects,” Lohman said. 

Lohman said the land located at 490 Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road was donated by the hospital. The planned development in Edgartown will not only serve as a replacement for Windemere, but Lohman said she hopes it will create a new way of life for elders in assisted living here on Martha’s Vineyard.

“We want this to be a replacement for Windemere, but also a future site for the residential care of our elders on the Island,” Lohman said.

A large focus of the Green House model is helping elders maintain their freedom of choice and self-direction by encouraging them to interact with their living space. “If an elder likes to cook, why shouldn’t they be able to prepare a nice meal for themselves, or bake cookies?” Lohman said. The nursing staff at the planned elder homes will be highly trained and fully certified by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and will live on the premises in order to care for the residents. All staff housing will be subsidized by the hospital, and nurses will receive specialized home care training for residents with dementia and myriad other needs. 

“This is a skilled nursing home, and we are planning on having workforce housing to accommodate that huge need on the Island as well,” Lohman said.

According to Lohman, the innovative model of elder homes also creates a safer and healthier environment for residents. Out of the 3,300 elders currently living in Navigator homes built using the Green House model, Lohman said only four have tested positive for COVID-19, and not a single resident has died from COVID-19.

“The main thing is that people are not living in such tight spaces, where it becomes a packed unit and disease can spread, like we have seen being an issue in other nursing homes,” Lohman said. 

In the planned new homes, there will be beds for both Medicaid patients and private-pay ones. 

Lohman said that all beds on the property will be Medicare- and Medicaid-approved, but the hospital has indicated the need for short-term stays as well. The goal of Navigator is to have half of the beds be Medicaid, and half private-pay, although that structure is subject to change. 

“I think this will be a great opportunity to create an amazing way of life for elders on Martha’s Vineyard,” Lohman said.