Tupelo Green House initiative celebrates ten years

Reported by: Wayne Hereford
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Updated: 5/05/2013 9:53 pm
TUPELO, Miss. (WTVA) -- At Traceway Retirement Community, something very unique is taking place.

The elderly residents here are living in what's known as a Green House.

The concept was started here ten years ago by a man from New York named Dr. William Thomas.

"In the early 2000s, I got to thinking that there ought to be a better way of taking care of people who are in a nursing home, and the idea became the Green House," said Thomas. "I'm a geriatrician. I'm a specialist in taking care of older people. And I looked at what's happening in the typical nursing home and [thought] there's got to be a better way. And the better way turned out to be make [the experience] like home."

Resident Clyde Biddle said it's certainly better. His wife is one of only three residents who have lived here since the start of the Green House program.

"When you walk in, you want to know what's cooking for supper. We all sit at the table. We get to share the day with each other. Also, we look out the windows. The birds are out and [springtime is here]," said Biddle.

Martha Dove has been a resident here as well.

"You can fellowship wtih everybody .They take us on trips, we go bowling, we go out to eat, we go to the movies and we go to the Mall," said Dove.

All of these things are what Thomas and others here call improved quality of life, which is very important as we age.

Another important concept used here is that of the Shabazz, the workers who see to it that the elder residents are taken care of.

Those who have worked with the Green House from the beginning were awarded for their efforts.

Shabazz is Persian for 'royal falcon.'

"The Shabazz here are universal workers. Because they do the cooking, the housekeeping and they do the personal laundry, they are self-managed work teams," said Tarlyn Gates, an employee at the Green House facility.

Steve McAlilly is the CEO of Methodist Senior Services. He and the board realized ten years ago that Thomas was on to something special with Green House.

"We try to create home in a Green House," said McAlilly. "The elders have their own private room. They all eat together in their dining room and they wake up to smell coffee brewing. They hear dishes rattling like they did at home, and that makes difference in the quality of their life."

The National Greenhouse Replication Initiative is active in 32 states with 144 homes open and 120 homes in development.
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