Jewish Senior Services Thrives After Three Months of Operation

jewish senior services

Residents Settling into New Home

From the outside, a construction site may look like a lot of dirt, hard hats, and big construction equipment. Steel beams are erected, walls are patched, plumbing is installed, and so on until the building is open. It’s rare that passersby will stop to consider, “How will this project make a difference in the community?”

All hospitals, schools, community centers, and senior living facilities begin as an empty patch of land. And, truth be told, every construction project has the potential to change and improve the lives of hundreds of individuals.

Jewish Senior Services’ recently completed Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Campus is just such a place. Based in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the not-for-profit provider of skilled nursing and senior care services set out to create positive change for their residents and the Bridgeport community with a new senior living building – and overwhelmingly succeeded.

“We took what was a very simplistic, traditional, and institutional nursing home and we built what is not only a residential environment that transforms the way people live, but also creates a community campus that brings people together and changes their quality of life in a really meaningful way,” said Andrew Banoff, President of Jewish Senior Services.

Take David and his wife Fani, for example. The couple moved into Jewish Senior Services’ previous senior care facility in Stamford, CT four years ago – when David was 100 and Fanny was 90 – and they lit up every room. At the time of their arrival, David knew that he was actively dying and his family didn’t want Fani to be alone after he passed.

Jump to four years later:  David is doing incredibly well at the age of 104. He and Fanny, now 94, go everywhere together and are the epitome of why Banoff and his team do what they do every day. They helped them find a renewed chance at life.

Creating Households

Banoff began the process of creating the new Weinberg senior care campus project about 8 years ago when he and his staff started researching different nursing home models around the country. The “Household Model” of senior care stood out immediately as the right choice for this new facility. The new Jewish Senior Services (JSS) senior living facility now features the first “Household Model” of senior care in the State of Connecticut. The philosophy behind the Household Model of Care is to create a more personalized, home-like setting for residents and to allow residents more autonomy in shaping their daily schedules. At JSS, each of the households encompasses an entire wing and is home to fourteen residents with private bedrooms and bathrooms along with a shared kitchen, dining room, living room, balcony, and den.

“Once we had a good core understanding of what a difference this model makes in people’s lives,  it was an absolute no brainer for us. If we wanted to build a new nursing home to serve the next generation of seniors, this was what we needed to build,” said Banoff. “Anyone I’ve ever shown around household model, especially staff, says, ‘Of course.’ It just became very, very clear that this was the right thing to do.”

Not only does the household model of care improve the functionality of the facility, it also improves the privacy, dignity, and individuality of the residents. These two factors were key to Banoff’s Guiding Principles for the Design of the Campus, which he developed at the start of the project. These principles were shared with everyone involved in the project, from the JSS staff to the architect, Perkins Eastman to the builder, KBE Building Corporation, and the many trade contractors who brought the project to life.

“During the design phases, and even into construction, we made significant changes that were absolutely influenced by how those decisions would affect the privacy and dignity of the residents,” Banoff said. “Take the bathrooms, for example. I wanted to get the wall from the sink extended further into the living space so that visibility would be blocked to the person in the bed,” said Banoff. “So, we moved the wall out a foot. This allowed more room for a wheelchair to turn into the bathroom. This was a simplistic construction change – of course, it took a little bit of work – but it was very much the Perkins Eastman, KBE, and me trying to accomplish our goals in a very practical way.”

If You Want Things Done Right, You Have To Do It Yourself

Banoff was as involved as an owner could be on this construction project – and necessarily so. His decisions were vital to the successful completion of the facility.

“I viewed this project as my baby,” Banoff explains. “The entire vision – concept, design, strategic goals, what we were trying to accomplish – was something that I worked on for years. We had two other sites that we had planned to build on before this one that ultimately failed, so there was a lot of build-up getting to this location. After each step of the planning, we got a little bit smarter and a little more creative in terms of what we wanted to do. By the time we started the architectural design at the site, it was very clear what we were trying to accomplish.”

Banoff worked closely with the design and construction team on the project to ensure every detail was as he envisioned. To do this, Banoff had to put in incredibly long hours, but it was worth it in the end.

“The more detail oriented and the more involved the CEO is, the more likely it is going to get done the way you want it to be,” he says. “So, you don’t have to be involved. But if you aren’t involved, you can’t blame other people for decisions that get made.”

A Team With Experience

KBE Building Corporation (KBE), a $300 million construction firm located in Connecticut and Maryland, served as Construction Manager at Risk for the Bridgeport facility. The new $78 million, 377,000 s/f building was by far the most unique and moving project that KBE has ever worked on.

“The biggest issue in [choosing a construction firm] was gaining the confidence that they could manage the project according to the schedule and budget that we were looking to achieve,” said Banoff.

KBE’s senior team on this project – Simon Etzel, Principal of KBE Building Corporation and Tony Maselli, Project Executive at KBE Building Corporation,– exuded the confidence that was necessary to complete to job.

We wanted an architect and a construction manager that shared our  vision and understanding of what we were trying to accomplish,” said Banoff. “We interviewed several firms with tons of experience, but ultimately we were trying to find someone who matched and understood what we were trying to do culturally.”

Watch Out For Bumps in the Road

A $78 million, 377,000 s/f construction project did not come without challenges.

“We had to overcome the regulatory challenges that arise with every public agency – it’s just part of what they need to do in their jobs,” Banoff says.  ”There are a lot of players involved when it comes to new construction, particularly new senior living facilities. We worked with the local building and zoning departments, the local department of health and the state department of health, along with the fire marshal, safety marshal, building inspectors, and more,” said Banoff.

“There is a continuous battle with all the different oversight boards and their conflicting rules. It’s just important to always remind people in any construction project that the bureaucratic and regulatory matters are very critical to the success of a project.”

Banoff and his team overcame the hurdles presented to them by the regulatory boards and were able to complete the project on time and on budget, despite of the size of the project.

“But the management of cost was difficult. Everything from change orders, alternates, and allowances are a perpetual give-and-take,” said Banoff. “I don’t care what you’re building – the management of the money and resources in any sized project is a massive undertaking and someone has to be accountable for it or it can get out of control quickly.”

Adjusting to Their New Home

Now, about five months after the doors have opened, Jewish Senior Services residents are adapting to their new environment. However, there are some changes that require some getting used to.

“One of the challenges with the transition to the new facility – that we did not expect at all – is the residents are complaining that it is too quiet,” said Banoff. “They were used to seeing a lot of busy people running around in our old facility. The average age of our population is almost 92 and the noise and the chaos can be a form of entertainment.”

Other than the issue with the peace and quiet, things have been running perfectly at the new facility.

 “The two most meaningful impacts we’ve seen immediately is obviously the residents’ and staff’s response to this magnificent physical environment. But the amazing thing is that we have, in fact, changed the way people live. We created an environment for seniors to experience a more dignified and meaningful lifestyle.”

The reality of completing this project has officially set in for Banoff. Residents are already engaging with each other in a new and exciting way. Everything about the residents’ relationships is different thanks to the household model of senior care.

 “When people ask me why I do what I do, my answer is always the residents,” said Banoff.

“One is an interaction I had with a resident named Dave. Dave I met when he was 100 and he ultimately lived until he was almost 105. Dave was a sweet man who I had a lot of fun with and got to know pretty well. He moved in shortly after I became CEO and one of the very first conversations I had with him about the secret to a long, health life. He said to me, ‘Put your hands on your cheeks.’ And I did. Then he said, ‘Start rubbing your cheeks.’ And I did. To which I said, ‘What am I doing?’ And he said, ‘You’re exercising your smile. Never forget to smile.’”

 About Jewish Senior Services

Jewish Senior Services is one of the premiere providers of senior care in Connecticut serving clients throughout Fairfield and New Haven Counties. The 5-star skilled nursing and short term rehabilitation facility has been serving the community for over 40 years with an unparalleled quality and personalized care. Jewish Senior Services opened The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Campus on Park Avenue in June 2016. The new state-of-the-art intergenerational senior services campus includes skilled nursing, assisted living and memory care residences. Other services include rehabilitation, day services, home care, hospice, advocacy and education, home together, long term care protection, child development center and fitness center.

About KBE Building Corporation

KBE Building Corporation is one of the East Coast’s leading builder of senior living facilities. To date, the commercial construction services firm has built or has underway nearly 3 million square feet of senior living space with a construction value of $450 million. KBE’s projects include continuing care retirement communities, assisted living and independent living facilities, skilled nursing facilities, and senior support facilities.

With offices in Norwalk and Farmington, CT, as well as Columbia, MD, KBE Building Corporation is a full-service, single-source commercial construction company strategically positioned to serve the Eastern and Mid-Atlantic U.S. Founded in 1959 and incorporated in 1966, the $300 million firm provides preconstruction, construction management, design-build, and general contracting services to clients in the senior living, educational, senior living, federal, corporate, hospitality, health care, retail and institutional markets

KBE’s team of 120+ construction professionals and support staff is deeply committed to the firm’s corporate philanthropy program, 50 Ways to Make a Difference. Established in 2009 to celebrate the firm’s new ownership, name change, and 50 years in business, 50 Ways has helped KBE associates donate more than $1.7 million and 11,474 volunteer hours to charitable causes benefiting children, seniors, and military veterans in Connecticut and Maryland.

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