“But let there be spaces in your togetherness and let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.”
The above quote was posted today by Susan Thomas for St. John’s “Eden Quote of the Day”, in honor of the first three Elders moving into our community Green Houses in Penfield, New York. This is the culimination of an incredible journey for St. John’s Home.
It has been exactly a decade since I went to hear Bill Thomas give a talk in Utica about his latest thoughts about Elderhood. At that talk, Bill described his concept of “doing vs. being”, and his visions for “Eldertopia”.
In 2003, the first Green Houses opened in Tupelo, Mississippi. Our CAO, Veronica Barber went to visit them, and on her return she told our CEO, Charlie Runyon, “We have to do this.”
Then about four years ago, with the encouragement of former DOH Dormitory Authority Director Tom Jung and Assistant Health Commissioner Mark Kissinger, we decided to take one more very big step: we decided to bring Elders back to true community engagement, by moving off campus and integrating our Green Houses into residential communities.
This set off a series of twists, turns and setbacks that pushed us back a few years in our timeline, but what we learned in that process about our vision, our strengths and challenges, and about our Eden journey was priceless.
And today marks the payoff as, for the first time in our nation, the first pioneering Elders move to a pair of small houses 11 miles away from the main campus, nestled in the multigenerational Arbor Ridge community. Guide Rebecca Priest has been the lighthouse for this journey and her group of shahbazim, nurses and other supportive care partners is truly incredible. Very soon after, the remaining 17 Elders, people with diverse needs and abilities, will follow.
So many people have put their hearts and souls into this journey that it is impossible to mention them all. In addition to the visionary leaders mentioned above, I must make a special note of Joanne Braunle, our Project Manager, who formerly worked on NASA contracts and showed us that culture change really is rocket science! The builders at Pridemark, architects at SWBR, and our pre-design work with Emi Kiyota all made incredible contributions to the beautiful, warm and functionally versatile houses we open today.
And of course, a huge thank you to The Green House Project, especially Robert Jenkins and Susan Frazier for their guidance and tireless advocacy, and to Bill and Jude Thomas and the Eden Alternative, who have helped shape our new vision of Elderhood that will truly be a game-changer in providing living options for Elders with skilled needs across the nation and beyond.
Way to go, St. John’s; my hat is off to you!!