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The Summit senior living complex opens its doors

Brian Fogg (center) cuts the ribbon on the Summit senior living complex. (Photo by Justin Roshak) (click for larger version)
June 27, 2018
WHITEFIELD—Two years after ground was broken on the project, The Summit by Morrison opened its doors last Friday.

Executive Director Chad Dingman called it "a milestone in housing care service for the seniors of the North Country."

He pointed out that northern New Hampshire was "an area historically deprived of housing and employment opportunities," and that the project would provide for both.

The Summit includes 47 independent living units (one or two bedrooms), 24 one-bedroom assisted living apartments, and 12 'memory care' apartments. The hill-top complex sits on 25 acres overlooking Route 116. Already, some 13 independent living and nine assisted living spaces have been reserved.

The facility will employ some 30 people, 24 of whom will be low-level positions such as residential aides, nursing assistants, and dietary aides, all full time with benefits. The lowest wage will be $11 per hour, a Summit representative said. New Hampshire's minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.

State Director for the US Department of Agriculture Anthony (USDA) Linardos celebrated that Summit would allow "North Country seniors to retire in the community they have lived in their entire lives."

The assisted living apartments cost between $4,350 and $4,650 per month, which includes such basic services as meals and medicine management. Prospective tenants and their guardians will complete an assessment of the level of care required, and receive a score that signifies additional services and costs: $500, $900, or $1,800—the last equivalent to 'nursing home' level of care. According to Summit, incontinence is one major driver of independent living costs.

Residents pay privately on a monthly basis. Medicare will not be accepted, and Medicaid payments support only a small fraction. Summit was the recipient of some $25 million in low interest loans from USDA (about 2.5 percent, paid over 40 years). These favorable terms are only extended to nonprofit ventures.

The independent living and assisted living spaces are laid out and designed in a similar fashion, which Dingman said helped made the transition between them less disruptive. Some elements are designed differently to accommodate changing needs—for instance, the assisted living and memory care spaces include double doors. Those with a propensity to wander are easily discouraged by a second portal, Dingman explained.

In addition, windows only open a few inches, and adjoining outdoor gardens will be secured. Furthermore, the memory care rooms are significantly smaller, a deliberate design choice intended to encourage sociability in the communal spaces. This is intended to prevent depression and "holing-up" behavior. Other elements are intended to foster this sense of community—food is prepped centrally, but prepared in the common spaces. The one-option menu is designed to foster togetherness, Dingman said—though dietary needs will be accommodated, he assured prospective clients.

Brian Fogg, President of the Board of Trustees of the Morrison Hospital Association, praised the joint effort of each and every stakeholder, from board members to government officials:

"Without the massive commitment of time by these people, and their predecessors, Summit would never get built," he said.

Martin Lord Osman
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