Empowering residents, creating a supportive community

Submitted by Jerry Halberstadt on Sun, 11/25/2012 - 23:34

Guest post: Mary shares her ideas with Jerry

Hi, Jerry,

I just came across this really awesome idea for senior housing, that is more community-creating, healing and health-supporting, homey and comfortable,

called The Eden Alternative. This material is directed towards dementia care, but I think it has a lot of positive, hopeful ideas for subsidized housing for senior & people living with disabilities, as well.

These new social models and architechtural design concepts are discussed as solutions in nursing homes, but there are a lot of commonalities with the experiences of seniors & people living with disabilities's in subsidized residencesὌfeelings of loneliness, helplessness, & boredom. & exaggerated emphasis on management treating them as inferior, incapable, non-unique-individual/dehumanized ways based on erroneous myths about the subsidized housing senior & people with disabilities, including ageism, sexism, classism, ableism & "total care"/"totalitarian" forms of management, warehousing/institutionalization, social isolation. Maybe this kind of treatment of residents in & of itself creates the hositle conditions that exist along with bullying & harassment. This is similar to nursing homes treating their residents by focusing too stereotypically and narrowly on their residents as only being a medical condition, in a dehumanizing way, rather than as a complete human being, with many positive, whole, healthy qualities.

I also discovered Oatfield Estates, an Assisted Living and Memory Care Place in Portland, OR which seems to be going by the same or a similar idea, with their residents having much in common with our subsidized housing residents, although it sounds like it could be quite an expensive place to live. But maybe the ideas could be adapted to subsidized housing in a more cost-effective way. Oatfield Estates staff talks about creating an empowering environment for their residents.

Many residents of HUD-subsidized housing are living independantly, or struggling to, despite the health-, well-being-, & peacable-enjoyment-undermining practises of many abusive, or at the least, very uninformed, unequal power-creating HUD staff. Maybe practises of giving residents a say, even while in assisted living or memory care settings, would work well in the HUD housing, provided all residents & staff were thoroughly educated in how to act in respectful, dignified, "good neighbor," "win-win" democratic power ways that are mutually cooperative.

Jerry replies to Mary

Thank you! I have seen info on this "Eden" concept and I agree it would be a good basis to start thinking about senior housing, too.

Your insights are right in line with the thinking of social work professionals working to eliminate bullying and create a healthy, supportive environment.

You have touched the core of my interests and concerns. We need to empower residents in a constructive way. The structure and attitudes around subsidized housing creates a situation where the residents, if they have any spark of life left, must rebel. Unfortunately, unguided this can express itself in a social structure based on bullying.

One source of the bullying comes from a desperate need to be in control over the social environment. Bullying is a very negative solution, however.

So I think no progress is possible unless management has anti-bullying policies with teeth; and external enforcement like courts and ombudsman.

Then if there are trained staff (social worker? activities director? resident service coordinator?) sufficient to deal with the situation (one worker per 100 residents seems to work) and if management adopts an open, collaborative approach, great things might happen.

You are pointing us towards a better future.

Everyone can help free people from bullying

Our plan: educate and enlist Beacon Hill lawmakers

We need the help of all citizens living in subsidized housing in the Commonwealth to identify trouble spots, housing which is free of bullying that can serve as models, and to witness and advocate. Wherever you live, you can advocate for change in HUD policies through your elected federal officials.

Please sign the petition now (no donation expected)

Petition: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/stopbullyingcoalition/