KALKASKA — Kalkaska Memorial Health Center is pursuing a $4.5 million project for long-term seniors’ care on hospital grounds in what’s considered a pioneering approach to nursing home care in northern Michigan.
Jim Austin, administrator at Kalkaska Memorial, said the hospital is partnering with the national non-profit, The Green House Project, to build two “Green House” homes at the hospital on South Coral Street.
The goal is to implement a new model for nursing home care in northern Michigan by giving residents a unique, small-scale environment in 10-bed homes. The smaller environment, Austin said, facilitates personal growth for both residents and the staff who care for them.
“The belief is that there are several people that need nursing home care who do much better in a very small environment,” Austin said. “A place where there are just 10 beds and where they can age in place without being moved around to different units. They can have their own regular staff with them day in and day out so they can live more like an extended family instead of what feels like an institutional environment.”
Another key component to the Green House Project, Austin said, is the mandate that it be open to residents who cannot afford a private pay facility.
“A lot of these (nursing) homes that have been built around the United States, they are exclusive for private pay or limit the number of people on Medicaid to maybe 25 percent of the number of beds in the home,” Austin said. “We at Kalkaska Memorial will make it available to all payer types.
“We have the approval from the state to build the homes, we have the cash in the bank to build the homes, and we expect to break ground in the spring of next year,” Austin said.
The plan is yet another example of the growing demand for businesses and services that cater to the region’s aging population. The national company Cordia Senior Living recently embarked on the creation of Cordia at Grand Traverse Commons: A Senior Residential Club at Building 50 at the Village of Grand Traverse Commons. The $30.7 million project will offer 109-apartment residences to seniors.
The Green House project is welcome news in Kalkaska. Village Manager Penny Hill praised the endeavor and said Kalkaska Memorial is investing in the long-term future of the community, which will translate into more jobs for locals.
“When you think of green houses, you think of the optimal place for growing plants,” said Susan Frazier, chief operating officer for the Arlington, Va.,-based Green House Project. “This is the optimal place and environment for growing people.”