A new chapter for ElderHouse
Daily exercise, activities like Wii bowling, bingo and playing Family Feud and trivia games are just some of the reasons why Jerry looks forward to coming to ElderHouse Adult Day Center on Lewis Street in Norwalk.
"Otherwise, I would stay home and lay in bed and watch TV, and that does me no good," he said Friday morning, just minutes after staff members cut a ribbon to mark the completion of a $1.4 million renovation of the ElderHouse facility.
During the seven months Jerry has been coming to ElderHouse, he has made friends with the staff and has taken some of the "older" clients under his wing.
"I think I am the youngest person here, so I try to help some of the older people. I never considered myself a senior until recently," he said.
"The program has really helped me quite a bit and I don't plan on leaving anytime soon.
"This place is beautiful," he added, referring to the renovations.
"I'm just wondering where the indoor swimming pool is," he said with a laugh.
While ElderHouse may not have an indoor swimming pool, it does have a new art studio and memory care room for clients to enjoy as part of the renovations. ElderHouse, which currently serves clients from Westport, Weston, Wilton and New Canaan, created the cozy, quiet memory care room, complete with plush recliners, a television and bookshelves, to meet the needs of clients with dementia-related illnesses.
A second floor has been created to accommodate the administrative offices and there is also an increase in handicap accessibility, including an automatic entry door, wider hallways and more handrails.
"Today is the realization of a dream that I must confess many of us here at ElderHouse seriously doubted from time to time would ever take place. Then again dreams and dreams coming true have been part of our entire history," said Conrad Ambrette, past president of ElderHouse's board of directors.
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"In the mid-1970s a group of Norwalkers got together and had a dream that there would be a facility that provided day care for frail seniors with the goal of keeping them in their homes and delaying for as long as possible that dreaded trip to the nursing home. Adult day care was a dream then.
"But through their conviction and hard work their dream was realized and ElderHouse was born. In 35 years in operation, we have helped hundreds of seniors realize their dream of staying in their home for as long as possible."
ElderHouse was among the first senior centers in the state to offer an alternative to nursing home care. It is a day program providing a range of services, from therapeutic recreation and nursing care to noontime meals. ElderHouse picks up clients by van and transports them to and from the facility.
"In addition to the socialization they receive we also provide the care they would receive at home, including the giving of medication and the taking care of personal hygiene needs if requested. This allows the primary caregiver a necessary respite during the day so they can spend quality time with their loved one at night," said Brett Whitton, president of the board of directors.
Denise Cesareo, executive director, said that 25 percent of clients are spouses of elderly people.
"It's 85-year-olds taking care of 90-year-olds. It can be exhausting. So they get respite a couple days or more a week. It gives them a break and more stamina to keep going. They made that lifelong promise to their spouse," Cesareo said.
Ambrette pointed out that ElderHouse began in the basement of the KingsWay apartment complex across from Stew Leonards and later moved to another temporary spot in the Masonic Lodge in East Norwalk. Two years later it appeared it was the end of the road for the adult day care center, when the First Congregational Church came to the rescue and offered a lease on the corner of its property. Through the efforts of the board and the Norwalk community, ElderHouse opened under its own roof in 1987.
Time eventually took its toll and the wear and tear of years of service became evident about a decade ago. So the ElderHouse community began thinking about a more modern facility. ElderHouse received a $500,000 grant from the state of Connecticut for renovations and a capital campaign is under way. Work began in July of 2011.
"Without your drive and your meticulous attention to detail, your creative flair and your amazing and boundless energy, this building would not be what it is today. More importantly, without your caring, your commitment, your compassion and passion over the 20 years you have led us, ElderHouse would not be the premiere facility it is today. ElderHouse is in large part a reflection of you," Ambrette said.
State Sen. Bob Duff (D-Norwalk) gave kudos to the entire ElderHouse staff.
"It's great to have a beautiful building, it's another thing to make it a place where people want to come. And day in and day out we see people who want to come to ElderHouse because they know that it's a safe, comfortable place to come to. And not only for the clients, but also for their family members."