- Written by Janis Merrell, Editor of The Good Life
- Published: 02 July 2021
Scoot Aldrich, 69, has lived at the Morgan Allen House in Greenfield for 27 years: “I've been here the longest of anybody in the house. I love it. It's a beautiful historic house. It's maintained beautifully by the Greenfield Housing Authority and it's centrally located so I can get downtown. What's nice about it is that LifePath does a wonderful job. And if you need services, they're available. I have a caregiver who does my grocery shopping . . . it's just a very nice place because you can be independent. You have a cute little apartment, and you feel safe.”
The Morgan Allen House is one of two congregate housing facilities in Franklin County that LifePath supports, offering shared living to elders and people with disabilities and services to help residents stay independent and active in the community. It is located at 491 Main Street, on the same side of the road and just up from the YMCA and right in front of the Greenfield Acres high-rise. It offers 19 apartments with private half-baths and an elevator. The kitchen, dining room, living room, laundry, and three tub and shower areas are shared.
Scoot is a Coast Guard veteran who cooked during his time in the service and then spent most of his life as a restaurant chef in spots including the East Bay Trading Company and the Omni, as well as private catering firms. He moved to Greenfield from Charleston, South Carolina, after his partner passed away. “I was pretty much terminally ill,” remembers Scoot. “I had AIDS. I still have AIDS but I had a T cell count of seven. I was on my way out, and I just, I'm from this area so I wanted to get closer to home because down South in that period of time there weren't many services for somebody with AIDS. I was alone down there, and I moved up here. I'm connected with the VA, and they do a great job with all my meds and stuff. And I've been non-detectable since 1994. I always like to let people know that if you get on the cocktail you will live a perfectly healthy life. My only health issue is being affected by arthritis. That's why I use the wheelchair, I can only walk short distances with a walker.”
Along with his role as a local historical reenactor and curator of the museum at the local Upper Pioneer Valley Veteran’s Services office, Scoot also paints. Scoot’s beautiful works are displayed in the Morgan Allen House, along with other residents' art. It’s fun to walk along the halls and see everyone’s creativity on display.
Another means of personal expression at the Morgan Allen House are garden plots that were constructed for residents last year. Scoot’s garden includes a plethora of flowers, along with 3 gravestones a previous owner of the house had made for his beloved dogs. Scoot saw the gravestones had been moved aside and decided to add them to his garden as a “remembrance of history.” “He loved his dogs enough to make them gravestones, so I decided to bring the graves back out,” says Scoot. He also mentions how much residents at the [Greenfield Acres Senior Living] high-rise enjoy seeing the garden. “The people at the high-rise love to look out their windows and see all the color back here. I always get a lot of comments from the people who walk by,” says Scoot.
Another Morgan Allen House resident who enjoys the garden is Skip Formica, 56. His mother, who lives in the high-rise, can look out her window and see him caring for his plants. Skip was a personal fitness trainer in Florida before having a stroke about 4 years ago. He almost died and doctors didn’t think he would walk again. He moved up to this area to be near his mother and his sister, who he stayed with for a time before he was ready to live in his own apartment last September. Now Skip walks with a “miracle cane” and visits the YMCA 2-3 times a week to lift weights and use the Nautilus equipment. He credits his strong faith for his recovery and is very grateful for his home at the Morgan Allen House. Skip explains that while “his brain is good” he still finds his speech difficult due to the stroke. He asks for my notebook and writes his apartment number and the word “forever.” He then explains he wants to stay at the Morgan Allen House forever and feels very lucky to have his independence.
Skip is one of the residents who enjoys the home-cooked meals offered every day at noon by the chef, “C.J.,” an added feature unique to this congregate house. Residents can opt in or out of these meals, and also have the option of home delivered meals from LifePath, which are offered at both congregate houses.
Carol Ryder, 89, moved to the Morgan Allen House in July of last year, after staying with one of her four sons in Ashfield for a time after her second husband passed away. She recalls that “it took awhile to settle in,” but now tells people to “consider being here instead of a nursing home.” She is originally from Somers, Connecticut where she worked in nursing homes and was very active on the Caring Committee at her senior center, calling and visiting elders and helping them with whatever they needed. “It’s nice to be needed,” says Carol. Carol loves to read and also tends one of the garden plots.
One aspect all three residents have in common is their appreciation for Susan White, the Congregate Housing Coordinator at the Morgan Allen House. Carol says, “Susan is very friendly and open to help.”
“Susan is wonderful and always brings sunshine into the house,” echoes Scoot.
Susan White is a Licensed Community Health Worker through the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, who also has two master’s degrees. “Participation isn’t always about what you think,” says Susan about her role, crediting “humility, persistence, and steadiness” as important factors in advocating for residents. Like Scoot, she also credits the Greenfield Housing Authority for their “great partnership.”