‘The future of nursing home care on-Island’

Navigator Elder Homes seeks to combat the three plagues of aging on the Vineyard.

A new skilled nursing facility centered around socialization and independence is soon to replace the outmoded Windemere Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

A new skilled nursing facility centered around socialization and independence is soon to replace the outmoded Windemere Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. 

Although Windemere was considered state of the art when it was constructed in the 1990s, the institutional model that the facility uses has created operational losses each month, and is no longer a sustainable option for elders on-Island.

According to research conducted by Healthy Aging Martha’s Vineyard (HAMV), the senior demographic on the Island is growing rapidly, and the data shows that while there were 2,699 elders in 2010, that is expected to rise to just over 6,300 by 2030, and 7,258 by 2050. 

Navigator Elder Homes of Martha’s Vineyard is providing a new method of nursing home care through Green House Model homes — individual homes where each resident has their own living space and private bath, with a large communal kitchen and hearth space that encourages 

Interaction and independence. This model helps combat the three plagues of aging: loneliness, helplessness, and boredom.

According to CEO of Navigator Elder Homes Renee Lohman, she was contacted in 2018 by the Martha’s Vineyard Healthy Aging Task Force, which was at the time in conversation about what might be a suitable replacement for the Windemere facility.

As the number of elders on-Island continued to increase, healthcare professionals and others were concerned that Windemere would not be able to handle the aging population.

Paddy Moore, CEO of HAMV, reached out to Lohman and asked her about the Green House Model projects being undertaken on the Cape and in southeastern Massachusetts.

“She was wondering how we could build on the work of Healthy Aging to look at the Green House Model as a way to be a successor project for Windemere,” Lohman said.

Lohman immediately engaged in the HAMV group, and spent time in meetings, receiving education about the state of aging on the Vineyard, and was ultimately introduced to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital CEO Denise Schepici.

It wasn’t long before she was responding to a public request for proposals (RFP) from the hospital, and Navigator was the group that was awarded the RFP to construct five Green House Model homes at 490 Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road in Edgartown. 

The five homes will be clustered around a central outdoor gardening area, and each residence will include 14 private bedrooms, a central common area with a fireplace, and an open kitchen for family-style dining.

Additionally, workforce housing for 30 Navigator employees and 30 hospital employees will be constructed adjacent to the Green Houses. 

In total, the homes will serve 70 elders, who will receive round-the-clock care from highly trained Green House staff. Some of these nurses will serve as day-to-day support staff — handling needs like medication and physical assistance — and will build a close relationship with residents. Other skilled nurses can accommodate needs like physical therapy and short-term rehabilitation services after surgery or hospitalization.

Ever since first discussing the idea with the hospital and with HAMV, Lohman said it was clear a strong partnership would be formed based on the shared goals of each organization.

“My whole theory has always been that relationships are primary, and everything else is derivative. Since that time of that initial conversation, we have made monumental progress,” Lohman said.

The hospital purchased the land for the new nursing centers from Peter Norton and his family, then donated it to Navigator Elder Homes’ nonprofit arm for their use.

Navigator hired Ed Pesce, an engineer from Dennis, to design the project, along with LWDA Design of Concord — an architectural firm that is well-versed in the regulations for elder homes established by the Department of Public Health.

As part of the land purchase agreement, more than half of the available site will be set aside as conservation land. 

“We are really working to create the future of nursing home care on-Island — a place where elders are comfortable and happy, and they can live their lives to the fullest,” Lohman said. 

The hospital is in the process of figuring out how to tie the development into the town’s wastewater treatment plant, but have run into issues with connecting pump stations that would need significant upgrades to accommodate the additional flow.

The flow increase would also require the town to complete a comprehensive wastewater management plan, a state requirement when daily flows reach up to 80 percent of sewer capacity.

Marissa Lefebvre, communications specialist for the hospital, said in an email that there is not yet an update on the wastewater aspect of the project.

According to Polly Brown, CEO of Vineyard Village at Home and Navigator Homes board member, Windemere has become outdated, and the institutional setting that is offered there “isn’t what people want.”

“Windemere is paying for operational losses, and they can’t really afford to keep doing that,” Brown said. “This is an incredible opportunity for the hospital and for healthy aging groups on Martha’s Vineyard, and it’s so important for our elders.”

According to Brown, the project is expected to break ground at the outset of next year, and there is already a list of folks who wish to live in the new homes.

“We will certainly have space for everyone from Windemere who would like to come and live there,” Brown added.

According to her, elders living in Green House homes are able to retain their independence and pride later on in life by living in a more homey and comfortable environment that also fosters socialization and connection.

“We on the Island have a moral obligation to our seniors to keep them here and give them the proper medical help they need, instead of sending them to off-Island facilities,” Brown said.


  1. Too many people have had to leave the Island to get the elder care they need. On the one hand it’s encouraging to hear that something is in the works to address the issue. On the other hand, it’s been very obvious for a long time that the hospital can’t wait to get rid of Windemere, and being “outmoded” merely suggests the facility needs to be updated not abandoned. As written this coverage sounds like a press release from the hospital’s PR department. No where is there an indication of what the estimated costs for inhabitants will be at this new facility, whether many Islanders will be able to afford it, or for that matter what Windemere costs now.

    The wastewater issue may well be the tail wagging the dog in this case. A project on this scale would generate considerable wastewater, and the potential cost for Edgartown to enlarge its treatment facility to accommodate the additional flow would be substantial. The project developers could apply to the state to build their own wastewater facility onsite. State regulators generally don’t like to license ‘package’ sewage treatment plants, which is what this one would be, and with good reason. Plus they are expensive to build and operate. The Island has one such facility at the airport to service the terminal and the business park. It’s very expensive, which I know because I’m the airport treasurer.

  2. This certainly sounds ideal! No mention of how the residents are to be chosen and how they are to pay for the privilege of living there, but first things first. It has to be built first.

  3. Being a Registered Nurse and a former resident of Martha’s Vineyard, it has been my privilege to have been both an employee of the hospital and a patient. I can see that the Windemere Building, with some adjustments, would make a fine addition to hospital, outpatient areas, and medical offices with its proximity to all the above. I am sure it will have to be an evolution, due to the fact that there is an overabundance of patients for the senior citizen home in itself. However, one thing I don’t quite understand…how could Windemere be losing money, if it is so well established, full, and understaffed?
    Anyway, the accompanying consideration for employee housing is an asset……I know of the difficulties in finding affordable housing on the Vineyard as well.

  4. What has not been mentioned, but I believe to be the case, is that this facility will not be taking Medicaid / MassHealth paid elderly members of our community which make up a large percentage. This should be a major topic of focus! Who exactly will this facility serve? It is a relatively high net worth facility. Windemere loses money because the bulk of the residents are paid by Medicaid / MassHealth, and Medicaid has rules that constrict severely the amount it will pay and require recipient organizations to accept the direct reimbursement rates provided. By closing Windemere and passing off any political responsibility for elder care, Mass General Brigham, the largest hospital corporation in Mass., and owner of MV Hospital, will rid itself of the very much needed kind of facility that Windemere is… the only one that serves the poorest and least fortunate in our community. Only a facility that is guaranteed to provide for elder care for the projected number of those folks and to do so in a manner that is not socio-economically based should be allowed to replace Windemere. MassGeneral makes so much off the special relationship the MVH has as being a critical care facility enabling MassGeneral to collect double the normal rate of Medicare reimbursements systemwide, providing a huge cash machine for that billion dollar conglomerate. With the other hand, Mass General should be accepting the minor losses at Windemere to make available Medicaid funded long term elderly care in turn. It looks like a needed project, but doesn’t the Vineyard need a facility that will also be available for those whose only means of payment is through Medicaid and Masshealth?

  5. Thank you, Ana de Sousa! I’m astonished that the article doesn’t talk about affordability at all, as in who’s going to be able to take advantage of this lovely place. The story (which really does sound like a puff piece written by the backers of the project) calls Windemere “outmoded,” but isn’t a big problem with Windemere that it hasn’t been able to attract enough “self-financing” residents to break even? Is the plan perhaps to attract the well-off with this state-of-the-art facility?

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