Neighborhood-Based Assisted Living Communities With Individual Homes Are Becoming More Popular — With Good Reason

We’ve known all along that we were onto a good thing with our neighborhood approach to senior living.

The joy we see at the social events in our communities makes it clear how much residents and their families appreciate our intimate, home-like environment. Seeing so many new residents thrive after moving into one of our villas is further proof that what we’re doing works.

Now, with The New York Times and the AARP Public Policy Institute publishing articles extolling the merits of long-term care providers that are structured similar to Park Senior Villas communities, more people are discovering the many advantages this type of setting offers.

The Green House Model

Both articles feature a senior living model called the Green House model, which focuses on improving the quality of care and quality of life for residents through a person-centered approach — just as we do here at Park Senior Villas.

The whole idea is to provide a setting that’s very much like the one residents lived in before they moved. Green House homes (and Park Senior Villas) achieve this in a number of ways:

  • Typically, 10 to 12 residents live in each home.
  • Everything residents need to function at their highest level is right there in the home.
  • Each resident usually has his or her own bedroom and bathroom.
  • Meals are eaten in the dining room at the house.
  • Residents have more flexibility in their routine and choice of activities than they would in a traditional long-term care facility.
  • The same caretakers consistently provide companionship and assistance, helping to build strong relationships between themselves and the residents.

The articles also call attention to the improved outcomes for residents in Green House homes. Along with the potential to enjoy a better quality of life, residents typically have less risk for hospitalization (or readmission if they’ve already been hospitalized).

The improved outcomes persisted even after the pandemic began, according to The New York Times article:

“Research shows that Green House homes weathered the early pandemic far better than traditional facilities. Through July of last year, the Green House Project reported 32.5 positive Covid-19 cases and 2.84 deaths per 1,000 senior residents in its facilities, compared with 146 cases and 38 deaths per 1,000 residents in certified nursing homes overall.”

How Park Senior Villas Communities Compare

Although our communities are quite similar to those in the Green House model, there are some differences. For instance, you’ll only see single-story residences in our communities, whereas some Green House homes are situated in multi-story buildings.

Another difference between Park Senior Villas and certain Green House homes is our secure, park-like environment. Each Park Senior Villas community is situated on four to five acres, with walking trails and benches for resting. Residents can enjoy being outside without compromising their safety.   

There’s plenty of evidence-based research that shows being outside benefits older adults — including those with mild cognitive impairment or dementia. Getting just 15 minutes of sunshine on a near-daily basis can help older adults make the level of vitamin D their body needs. That, in turn, boosts the immune system, promotes bone strength, and fights inflammation.

Spending time outside, particularly in green spaces, can also improve mood, reduce stress, and stave off depression. That’s true for people of all ages and may be especially beneficial for older adults, who are often at greater risk for depression and anxiety. One reason is that fresh air stimulates the nervous system. Another is that sunlight stimulates serotonin production, which elevates mood. And yet another is that being outside in a park-like area makes it easier to relax, which helps to lower blood pressure and cortisol levels.

Moving around outside has been shown to improve balance and motor skills, even for those who have physical limitations. Being more active while outdoors can also improve heart health and lower the likelihood of having a stroke or developing diabetes and certain types of cancer. It can also lead to better sleep, more awareness, and even better verbal expression.

Yet another benefit of being outdoors in a green/natural setting is that it can improve short-term memory and attention span — even if there’s no physical activity involved. Adding a brisk walk on a regular, frequent basis can improve brain health by increasing the flow of blood to the brain. Among older adults with early signs of memory loss, this has resulted in improved cognitive scores.

Our ‘Best of Both Worlds’ Model

After showing you the similarities and differences between Park Senior Villas and Green House homes, you may be wondering how we compare with other types of assisted living and memory care communities.

Many larger senior living communities have apartment homes in buildings with half a dozen floors or more. They might have onsite fitness facilities, restaurants, and salons located on the ground floor or in a separate building on their campus. Some of these communities have hundreds or even thousands of residents.

Conversely, there are single-family residences that have been converted to assisted living homes. These may have only a half dozen residents, which allows for individualized care. However, there are no onsite amenities, and most are unable to offer engaging programs and activities that can accommodate more than a few family members at the same time.

When you look at how we’ve designed Park Senior Villas, you’ll see that we’re a hybrid offering the best of both worlds.

We’re small enough to provide personalized care that addresses each resident’s preferences and needs. With our low caregiver-to-resident ratios (1:5 to 1:8, depending on the location), there’s always someone nearby to provide the care that residents need—and the attention they deserve.

Yet, we also offer amenities. One villa in the community might have a salon. Another might have a theater. And another might have an exercise room. Residents throughout the community have access to all of the amenities.

More About Person-Centered Care at Park Senior Villas

“Because our communities are small and intimate, we can really meet the needs of the residents,” said Christina Ryan, our chief operating officer. “It’s definitely a positive environment, for residents and for caregivers. When you have the same staff working in the same villas, they get to know the residents. They form an intimate bond. It’s very caring, very loving.”

“In our homes, you can choose what you want to be involved in and what you don’t. If you’re hungry, you can eat. If you want alone time, you have privacy. You have a lot of flexibility, and that helps you maintain your independence as long as you can. Our caregivers get to know you, and they help you do things to the best of your ability.”

A multitude of studies have demonstrated that engaging with others in a social situation is beneficial for seniors, including those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Research has indicated that socialization might even keep these conditions from progressing as quickly.

Just being in the great room at one of our villas helps residents feel included, whether they actively participate in what’s happening or not. By being part of the group, even if they’re just observing what everyone else is doing, they feel less isolated. Plus, all of their senses are being stimulated. This can have a positive effect on those who are living with dementia, which improves their quality of life.

People with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia often find it difficult to communicate verbally. Our caregivers are trained to recognize the nonverbal cues, such as changes in facial expressions, that indicate what’s going on with residents who may not be able to express themselves so well with language. We also engage them through nonverbal activities that stimulate the brain.

“We meet residents where they are in the aging process, both physically and cognitively,” Christina said.

“And when it comes to relationships, we always say it’s not just the resident who moves in. It’s the family. Many family members, whether it’s a spouse or a son or daughter, come visit every day.”

Fortunately, even though the pandemic interrupted those daily visits, we were still able to find other ways to keep residents and their families connected.

“I just feel like, during this pandemic, they just went above and beyond to allow families the security to know that their loved ones were taken care of and also to allow us the ability to still be engaged with them,” said Tina Rodrigues, whose husband, Kevin, has early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Kevin came to live with us in February 2020. You can watch Tina’s testimonial and others on YouTube.

When we welcome a new resident into one of our communities, we spend time with them and their family to get the resident’s “story” — information about who they are, what they enjoy doing, and their life before retirement. We’ve started compiling this information into mini-bios that we post outside the residents’ rooms, along with a picture. It helps the residents get to know each other and facilitates conversations within the household.

At some locations, we’ve started posting similar mini-bios for staff members on a bulletin board in a common area of the villas. Residents seem to appreciate having that information handy.

We’ve also had training sessions to help our staff better understand what it’s like not to be able to see, hear, or move around so well. We partnered with Suncrest Hospice for these workshops, and some family members chose to participate as well. Although we had to suspend those workshops because of the pandemic, we’re looking forward to resuming them. 

Not All Assisted Living Communities Are Alike. Come See What Makes Us Different.

We’re excited to see alternative models for senior living communities like ours getting more attention in the press and elsewhere. For people who want more person-centered care from qualified caregivers and want to maintain the strong connections they have with their family, Park Senior Villas may be exactly what they’re looking for.

If you’re interested in learning more about our secure neighborhood environment, personalized care, and family-friendly approach to assisted living and memory care, there’s nothing we’d like better than to have you join us for a look around.  

We invite you to schedule a tour of any of our locations. You can also explore the upcoming events planned for each community and RSVP for any you’d like to attend. Either way, be prepared to be pleasantly surprised!