Wow of the week: Could rethinking traditional nursing home model improve senior health?

In an effort to move away from the traditional model of a nursing home, a nonprofit organization has developed an alternative — smaller scale housing for elderly residents. They’re referred to as Green Houses. The idea is that small homes of roughly 10 residents can improve social interaction and the quality of life and health of its residents. And that could reduce healthcare costs.

The concept of the Green House, as it’s called, was originally developed in 2003 by Dr. William H Thomas. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has thrown its backing behind the Green House Project, as has NCB Capital Impact. It runs the program and helps organizations that want to adopt the Green House model with technical assistance, training and pre-development loans. To date, there are 260 Green House homes in 32 states.

According to the director of the Green House project, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, the small homes allow for less administrative costs. And because of the house size, residents can stay ambulatory with assistance from a walker, instead of requiring wheelchairs.


The program takes the approach that aging can also be a time of development and growth. It takes a holistic approach that’s intended to overcome some of things that frighten us about aging, namely loneliness, helplessness and boredom. Certified nursing assistants take their meals with residents. The close contact they have with residents makes it easier to spot potential problems earlier. The nursing assistants are backed up by clinical support teams that also include a nurse and a doctor.

According to its website, the Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rules and provisions for traditional nursing homes also apply to Green House homes.