First tenants move into new community CARROLL COUNTY SENIORS

A SATISFYING END TO SENIORS PROJECT

February 03, 1993|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Staff Writer

John T. Hanson has adopted as his slogan: "The difficult we do immediately. The impossible takes a little longer."

It took the 74-year-old Westminster resident eight years to see his latest project to completion.

But the first nine tenants have now moved into Ridge Residences, a community of 80 federally subsidized, assisted-living apartments for the elderly and handicapped on Timber Ridge Drive in Westminster.

Mr. Hanson is president of Ridge Residences Inc., the nonprofit development corporation formed to build the community. The corporation, in turn, is an outgrowth of Westminster Church Homes Inc., a nonprofit housing corporation formed by a group of area churches.

Ridge Residences, which cost about $4 million, is equipped to accept "frail elderly" tenants, those who do not need nursing care but do need extra help with day-to-day tasks.

Mr. Hanson said frail tenants will receive an hour a week of housekeeping help and an hour a week of personal help.

A central kitchen, not yet open, will provide three meals a day for frail tenants and others who prefer not to cook.

"What we're trying to do is keep them out of nursing homes as long as possible," he said.

Mr. Hanson said the frail tenants will not be housed in a separate section of the building, but will be integrated with everyone else.

In nursing homes, he said, people are often separated from their friends, but assisted-living apartments offer them the chance to remain in the community.

"They still stay with the people they know," he said.

The three-story building contains 79 one-bedroom and efficiency apartments for tenants, and an apartment for the resident manager.

pTC Prospective tenants of Ridge Residences must be certified as low-income, and over age 62 or handicapped.

Tenants pay 30 percent of their adjusted income for rent. HUD subsidies pay the rest.

All the apartments are designed with the frail elderly in mind. Doors are wide. Each unit has two pull-alarms to summon help, one in the bathroom and one in the bedroom.

Some of the apartments are designed for tenants who use wheelchairs. They have sinks a wheelchair can fit under, and light switches, doorknobs, medicine cabinets and fuse boxes within reach of a person in a wheelchair.

"It's just those little things that make for the difference," Mr. Hanson said.

Last week Maryjane Christy, 79, of Upperco, stopped by her new apartment with her niece. She is moving to Ridge Residences from a 32-acre horse farm, which is now for sale. She dropped off a teddy bear named Bud, and a few other possessions.

"I never had a kitchen this big," Ms. Christy said.

Ms. Christy, who uses oxygen, said she's happy the new apartment is located near a hospital and her doctors, and closer to her niece's home.

When the project began, Mr. Hanson said, its construction seemed an impossible dream.

"There are times when you get awful frustrated because things just aren't moving," he said.

There were delays for federal paperwork. And, for three years, the project competed for money with projects from the entire Baltimore area before it won funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Mr. Hanson said a video has been made documenting the project from start to finish.

He said a copy will be sent to former HUD Secretary Jack Kemp, who helped expedite the paperwork for Ridge Residences and similar projects elsewhere.

Mr. Hanson is not new to bureaucracy. He moved to Carroll County 20 years ago from Washington, where he worked for the State Department and the CIA.

But Ridge Residences "has been an education for me," he said.

Mr. Hanson learned how to navigate parts of the government he'd never had to deal with before.

Now, he is learning about fund-raising. HUD won't pay for certain costs, such as food services or connections to sewer and electric services.

The corporation is now raising money for these expenses.

Mr. Hanson said local businesses, individuals, banks and churches have been generous to the project.

The last major event in the fund drive, he said, was a quilt raffle organized by Bertha Shriner, secretary of the board of Timber Ridge, an older senior-housing development next door to Ridge Residences.

The quilt raffle raised $9,100, Mr. Hanson said, at $1 a ticket.

Summing up the experience, Mr. Hanson said that satisfaction is important after you've retired. "It's kept me alive."

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