The Green House Program

How does one care for older people in a society that does not respect or value age? Finding the answer to that question presents a major challenge, one that will only grow more difficult as the population ages. Already, 10 million Americans receive some form of long-term care assistance, and as many as 44 million relatives and friends are helping them. The cost is staggering, both in personal and financial terms: long-term care consumes more than $200 billion a year in government spending—and this doesn’t count the hundreds of billions of dollars families contribute in time and money.

An overwhelming percentage of seniors prefer to remain at home or live in their communities. This explains the great interest in home health care (now the fastest rising part of the Medicaid budget) and community-based care, such as adult day centers, congregate living facilities, and continuing care retirement communities.

The Green House® Project has received wide praise as an innovative approach to caring for the frail elderly. In this chapter of the Anthology, Irene Wielawski, a veteran investigative reporter and a founder of the Association of Health Care Journalists, examines the Green House® Project. She explores the beginnings and development of the idea, reports on visits to two Green Houses, and concludes by offering some thoughts on the viability of Green Houses as an alternative to traditional nursing homes.