Senior housing makes history

Camphill Ghent retirement project sees its approach as unique

GHENT– After a whirlwind construction period of 13 months, residents began moving in last month to Camphill Ghent, the 112-acre retirement housing complex along Route 66 just south of the Village of Chatham.

Right now the project has 31 units, including town houses, one-bedrooms and studio apartments, along with a senior center. There are 23 residents in the independent living spaces, which have their own kitchens and doors that lead to the hallways plus a communal kitchen and living room space, as well as doors to the grounds, which encompass a pond and rolling hills.

Six people live in the assisted living senior center, which also has private rooms with a bathroom along with several communal spaces. A second senior center will open soon, which is connected by a hallway to the other senior center and some independent living apartments.

The facility has 24 staff members, called co-workers, and Chief Executive Officer John Baring said Camphill Ghent will be hiring 8 more people in next few weeks. 10 staff members currently live on site and there are 12 apartments designated for co-workers.

There is also a communal eating area in the senior center with organic, locally grown food that independent living residents can buy. And an arts center is under construction, where plans call for events for residents and the surrounding community.

Mr. Baring said the project will be Gold LEED certified when the reports from the third party agency are completed.  LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification means builders and designers use energy efficient, environmentally friendly and sustainable materials and designs.

Camphill Ghent started as a project for people living at Camphill Village, a living center for people with developmental disabilities and their caretakers and families. Camphill Village in Copake is one of 100 similar communities worldwide.

Mr. Baring said his board realized that Camphill residents stay with the organization for life and need new facilities as they get older. Also, Camphill wanted a place for its own retired employees live.

They choose Ghent because it is close to downtown Chatham and in near hospitals in Hudson and Albany.

The land was once a dairy farm and had more recently been owned by a weekender who had his grass cut for hay by local farmers. The original house on the property is still being used, said Ms. Henry, and they have plans to make it into a guest house for visiting family members. The site also has an unheated pool and tennis courts that Ms. Henry says will be used.

In 2009 the committee was awarded a state Health Care Efficiency and Affordability Grant (HEAL) for $1.6 million. The total estimated cost of the project was $20 million, and Mr. Baring said two years ago when the project started that Camphill organization was making up the balance and the organization had a $5.1 million loan from First Niagara Bank.

The project has come in about where expected, at approximately $21 million, according to a recent email from Mr. Baring.  Though he said they have built everything they have permits for, a future phase, per their Master Plan which is filed with the Town of Ghent, could result in doubling the number of units, but new permits would have to be issued.

“We’re doing something very different,” he said in 2010. Mr. Baring said that having a place like this, with the mix of living styles and of people with and without special needs, is the first of its kind in the country.

Camphill is a not-for-profit organization that follows the teaching philosophy Rudolf Steiner.

Amanda Henry, director of marketing and admissions, said during a tour of the facilities last week that the completed leased units at the site “are pretty much full.” Rent is $1,100 a month for the apartments and $2,500 a month for the Townhouses, all utilities included.

Twenty percent of the apartments are reserved for low income families and cost $375 a month. Also, some staff members live in the communal apartments and there is staff housing connected to the senior center.

Ms. Henry said that half the residents are local and half from all over the country, including Vermont, New Hampshire, California and Virginia.

She said they are currently focusing on getting the residents settled in. “Moving is unbelievably stressful at any age, let alone when you are in your 80s,” she said, “so [we are] moving slowly.”

Mr. Baring said they will have another round of hiring more staff of health care professionals for second wing of the senior center when it opens this spring. Five more residents are set to move into the senior center this spring.

There are still signs of construction in the senior center and on the land, as fences go up and flooring goes in. But residents who have already moved into have begun to make their apartments look like home, with paintings and furniture.

“There is clearly a need for this kind of community,” said Ms. Henry. And with occupancy numbers like they are seeing, more construction is sure follow.

For more information about Camphill Ghent call 518 392-2760, email or go to http://camphillghent.org/.

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