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Case Studies

Case Studies: Exploring Innovative Seniors Housing Approaches Around the World (June 2007 - June 2008)

One of the ASHRA project goals is to look around the world for interesting ideas and applications of seniors' housing. We are doing this by visiting innovative seniors housing sites in North America and other countries. As of April 2008, ASHRA researchers have conducted case study visits to sites in England, Denmark, and California. In May 2008, ASHRA researchers will also visit two sites in British Columbia.

The Case Study Working Group was created to guide the case study component of the ASHRA project throughout Phase 3. The group is made up of community and university research team members. Since June 2007, the Case Study Working Group has developed selection criteria for the case studies, as well as guide the development and dissemination of the case studies themselves.

York, England - December 2007

In England in early December 2007, ASHRA researchers were hosted by the Rowntree Foundation, visiting their contunious care commuity called Hartrigg Oaks. Located three miles from the centre of York in the north-east of England, Hartrigg Oaks is a beautiful village of 152 bungalows spread around a central building (The Oaks), which contains both a 41-bed care home, and extensive communal facilities, including a restaurant and cafe, library, gymnasium, spa, pool, and hairdressers. The bunglaows are built to the "Home for Life" standard that was developed by the Rowntree Foundation.

Lillevang, Denmark - December 2007

In Denmark, ASHRA researchers were hosted by the Plejecentret Lillevang, about 10 km outside Copenhagen. The Plejecentret Lillevang complex consists of about 105 flats divided into 4 housing clusters, each consisting of 3 housing units with 8 flats with a communal kitchen area. Each group of 8 flats encircles a community garden, and a glass panneled facade from the living quarters links the inside of all flats with the outdoors. Residents share in meal planning and house-keeping chores.

Davis, California - April 2008

While in California, ASHRA researchers visited four locations. Two of these visits were supplements to other case studies to expand our understanding of assisted living alternatives (Sunrise of Palo Alto) and continuous care communities (Hyatt Residences at Palo Alto). The third visit was to Livermore Estates where we saw a combined assisted living and independent living complex with 40% of the units dedicated to affordable living. The affordable units in the assisted living section were rented at around $900-$1,200 each, while the market- rate units charged $3,800 and up per month. Most interesting in this complex was the deliberate attempt to ensure that residents were not aware of who was living in a subsidized unit.

Another interesting ASHRA researchers had the opportunity to investigate in California was the Glacier Circle Co-housing Community. Here, 12 individuals live in 8 townhouse units clustered around a courtyard and common house. Glacier Circle is only one-of-three elder co-housing communities in North America and has been open for 2 years. Our visit included interviews with all 12 residents, attendance at a management meeting, and sharing the evening meal at the common house. This is an exceptional group of elders with the youngest at 74 and the oldest at 93! Already in the first two years, one original resident has passed away, one has gone to a dementia facility, and one has been confined to a wheelchair. Despite all these changes, the community has cared for one another and helped residents overcome many physical challenges while aging in-place.

British Columbia - May 2008

Abbeyfield House, St. Peter’s Society, Victoria, BC

Purpose-built in 1988 by the St Peter’s Society on land donated by the adjacent St. Peter’s Church, this Abbeyfield House is home to 12 seniors.

What is an Abbeyfield House?

In 1956, Major Richard Carr-Gomm resigned his commission with the British Army and bought a property at 50 Eugenia Road, South London, for 250. It was run-down, had six rooms, no bathroom, an outdoor lavatory, and two cold taps. It was to provide housing for four people - the only qualification being loneliness. He was the first housekeeper and was dubbed by the press "The Scrubbing Major" (no Swiffer then).

Today, in 2008, this prototype has provided a vision and the impetus for hundreds of Abbeyfield Houses operating all around the world. Worldwide, there are 1100 Houses serving the needs of over 9,000 residents. A presence in 17 countries, including Japan and Mexico. In Canada today, there are 40 Societies, 29 Houses, and ten more planned or under construction.

Abbeyfield offers a warm, family-style House and a balance between privacy and companionship, security and independence, combined with the special caring element provided by dedicated volunteers and the consistency of a single House manager. Residents are considered to live independently, with shared meals most often prepared by the House manager with assistance from the residents.

Age and loneliness are the prime considerations for residency, together with level of health and compatibility with other residents.

Each House creates a sense of "belonging" that is truly preventative medicine. With a history of nearly five decades, statistics show that most Abbeyfield residents take out a new lease on life. They are more fit and more inclined to live out their natural life cycle (and longer) without becoming debilitated.

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