This article was previously published by Connecticut Post.
by Keila Torres Ocasio
In Bunny Kasper’s travels across the U.S. looking for ways to improve the lives of people in the care of Jewish Senior Services, there was one nursing home model that stood out from the rest — the “household model.”
These facilities are laid out like households, with residents enjoying private bedrooms and bathrooms but sharing dining, living and patio spaces with a limited number of housemates.
“You could feel like you were home again — not in a long corridor with other patients, but in a home with a family,” said Kasper, who until recently was a JSS board member. “When you get to our age, the thought of leaving home is dreadful. There’s nothing dreadful about this.”
On Thursday, Kasper was one of more than 50 people to watch the last steel beam lifted into place on the frame of JSS’s new $75 million campus on Park Avenue — the first “household model” facility in the state. The white beam was adorned with colorful signatures of hundreds of residents, JSS staff, construction crew members and city officials.
When completed in the spring of 2016, the 372,000-square-foot building will contain 46 assisted-living units, 18 skilled nursing households with 14 private units, and two short-term rehabilitation households with 14 units and indoor and courtyard therapy centers.
Each unit will have its own private bedroom and bathroom, but residents in each household will share a den, dining room, living room, patio and kitchen.
“We are a little more than a year away from completion of a campus that will transform long-term care,” said Andrew H. Banoff, president and CEO of JSS, also known as the Jewish Home. “The whole idea is to make it residential and homelike.”
The “household model” is one that is spreading across the U.S., said David Kooris, the city’s economic development director. He said his own grandmother lives in one of these facilities in Massachusetts and his wife’s grandfather lives in one in Kansas City.
“As the nation ages and the baby boomers are looking for ways to remain active, this is definitely the future,” Kooris said. “And to have the first one in the state built here is huge, not just for Bridgeport but for Fairfield County.”
The facility will be named the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg campus in appreciation of their donation. The site, at 4200 Park Ave., is the former home of the Jewish Community Center. It will replace JSS’s current home on Jefferson Street in Fairfield.
Banoff said roughly 800 employees will work at the new facility, which will pay a voluntary payment in lieu of taxes to the city.
Besides serving as a nursing home, the facility will also offer adult day programs, outpatient therapy, home care and hospice care. And it will host the Institute on Aging, Center for Elder Abuse Prevention and Senior Choice at Home.
It will also have services for the community at large, including an 18,000-square-foot fitness center, a 25-yard, four-lane indoor swimming pool, a child care center and a kosher bistro.
“It’s designed to be a resource for the community,” Banoff said.
And it will serve as a true home to the seniors who will live there, Kasper said.
“Everything about it makes it feel like you’re just changing your address,” she said. “People often feel like they’re going to these places to die. But here you’re going somewhere to live again. Everything that’s positive about living in a home, we’re going to be providing.”
Article by Keila Torres Ocasio, Connecticut Post and ©Hearst Connecticut Media