by Myles R. Brown
A new model community for aging in place, designed by Amenta Emma, perches on a bluff overlooking the Thames River in Groton, Conn. Thames Edge at Fairview consists of 40 homes owned and managed by the Odd Fellows Home, which has provided care since 1892.
The concept provides able-bodied seniors with a residence more suitable to staying independent longer. While residents have downsized from the traditional family home, they still live in a neighborhood that is private, with community connections and services meant to provide comfort, safety, and security. In other words, they have the sense of home ownership without having to shovel the snow off the roof.
Designed in two phases, Thames Edge offers a contemporary setting with magnificent river views and architecture that feels “young, exudes youthful energy” according to one resident. Homes are modeled after seaside cottages. Challenged by a significant elevation change, Amenta Emma designers terraced the homes on the site to provide bright covered entries walking out to grade at two levels for most homes. Four connected units create a quad, providing a shared social space at the entry. All essential living spaces are on one level, though some residents have finished basements as office and workshop space.
While Phase 1 residents catch glimpses of the river, Phase 2 capitalizes on views with corner windows and wrap-around decks oriented toward the river. “We are on the deck every evening, watching the Coast Guard cadets sailing,” says one resident. Interiors utilize universal design, which can be adapted as resident needs change.
The community model, a reaction to traditional, outdated concepts, is unique to Connecticut in several ways.
Residents enjoy a clubhouse with an outdoor pool and fitness center. The clubhouse has a restaurant, Grille 92, which is open to the public. A shopping area, with grocery, hair salon, and department store is less than a mile away.
By design, properties range from the high $100,000s to high $400,000s, fostering economic diversity. A school teacher can now live next to a former CEO. Many services, for example, meals and housekeeping, are offered à la carte, rather than being included in fees. This allows residents the flexibility to cook at home or dine at the new restaurant. Maintenance is included, meaning no worries typically associated with a stand-alone house. There is an emergency call service.
Lifetime leases include discounts on nursing home care, if needed. There is no assisted living option by design. However, the community soon hopes to offer flexible in-house care. Rather than having to hire assistance services for a required number of hours or days, Fairview hopes to have a skilled caregiver who can be available to provide help in smaller blocks of time, for example, an hour or two a day to help with bathing or to prepare breakfast. It is all about keeping people independent longer.
Proof of Thames Edge’s success? It is 100% sold with a waiting list of 50.
Myles R. Brown, AIA, is principal-in-charge of retail, mixed-use, and senior living studios at Amenta Emma Architects.