The recent pandemic has caused us to rethink many of the ways we have approached even the simplest daily activities. This need for change is most apparent in seniors as they have been the most vulnerable and isolated sector of the population (in our communities) during these unprecedented times.
In 2017 I was approached by a well-respected assisted living operator about looking at senior care in a different way. While Rodney Thomason, president of MAHC, had an outstanding reputation for delivering some of the best care in our region he wanted to do more. “We need places for seniors that we’d want to live in.”
Rodney was inspired after visiting my property, Moss Mountain Farm, and in some ways, wanted to use it as a model for a new approach. He had seen first hand the interest in the public coming for tours to see the gardens, farm, and green home; enjoying a farm-to-table meal and hear the message of organic, chemical-free living.
Replicating Moss Mountain wasn’t the answer, but much of what we do on the farm does spill over into this new concept, that later evolved into the Gardens of Somerset, in Sterlington, Louisiana. A strong focus will be placed on maintaining residents’ high quality of life through sensory stimulation, community integration, social engagement, exercise, proximity to green space, and access to healthy, locally-sourced food.
We want to keep seniors connected to the pulse of the community and to nature itself. By engaging the local community, nature, the garden, and developing sensory enhancing environments, we can vastly improve the quality of life and health for our future residents.
Placing a priority in the design by interfacing with nature and from the community is a hallmark of our approach. Creating a fabric of meaningful social interaction must be built into the DNA of a facility. The ‘sticks and bricks’ are simply not enough and its time we understand that buildings alone do not make a community. The design of a facility, both inside and out, must foster and encourage interaction, discourse, and engagement of its residents, staff, families, and members of the larger community.
What has COVID taught us? We are reminded that human contact and connection are more important than we may have previously thought. The inability for seniors to see their loved ones caused ‘deep depression and a disoriented state of mind’ says Ashley Kirk, director of MAHC.
The Gardens of Somerset, an 18-acre community located in Sterlington, LA, is designed to bring unparalleled living options to Ouachita Parish for older adults. Centered around outstanding architecture, the Gardens of Somerset will offer residents independent living, assisted living and memory care and a lifestyle focused on the things they love and cherish such as gardening, the culinary arts, exercise, and family.