Guerin Inc. will break ground Tuesday on a housing development in Georgetown that promises to change the way many Southern Indiana senior citizens live.

“There’s a quiet revolution saying we need to give our elders better care,” said Sister Barbara Ann Zeller, president of Guerin, which oversaw the construction. “It’s happening around the country, but there’s nothing like this in Indiana yet. We’re the first to do the small-house concept.”

The Villas at Guerin Woods will provide the care and support of a nursing home, but will offer more freedom than traditional institutionalized care, Zeller said.

Each of the 7,100-square-foot villas will house 10 elders. Residents and guests will share a kitchen, living area and patio garden, but each resident will have his or her own bedroom and a full bathroom.

“The focus is living life rather than just receiving care,” Zeller said.

Residents decide when they wake up, eat breakfast and go to sleep. They can choose to help with chores such as cooking and setting the table. No place in the villa will be off limits to the elders.

“Baby Boomers are not going to want to go to clinical institutions,” Zeller said.

As a licensed nursing-home administrator, Zeller knows that the elderly often see different caretakers each day. Many times, they are rushed from place to place without ever getting the chance to even walk.

“We want to maximize the capabilities of the elderly,” she said. “If a 90-year-old woman wants to cook but can’t anymore, she can share her family recipe with the workers and teach them how to cook it.”

The villas will be staffed at all times and have licensed practical nurses, licensed medication aids and certified nursing assistants on staff, but each staff member will act as a universal aid. They will shift responsibilities in order to learn team spirit, Zeller said. They also will take care of cleaning and simple maintenance.

“The workers will need to be special people who want to be nurturing and help the elderly lead their own lives,” she said.

They will have therapeutic equipment and a spa area ,which will allow elders to remain in their homes for the remainder of their lives.

They hope to begin occupying the first two villas in May or June. Plans eventually call for nine villas to be built. There are already 29 seniors on a waiting list. The villas will be licensed by the state, and private pay or Medicaid will be accepted. Seniors from Floyd, Clark and Harrison Counties may apply.

A market study conducted for Guerin Inc. in 2006 indicated that 292 units are feasible for Floyd, Clark and Harrison Counties. It also found that the fee structure will be competitive with other senior residences.

Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman will attend the groundbreaking ceremony which will take place at 3 p.m. Tuesday at the construction site. Those who donated money to the $2 million project will be honored.

The Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority gave $1.7 million of that, and the rest came from foundations, Zeller said. This project is the first to receive money from new legislation signed by Gov. Mitch Daniels to ensure constant revenue for the Affordable Housing and Community Development Fund.

The ceremony is open to the public. Call 812-951-1878 for reservations or for more information on the facilities.

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