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Senior citizens with memory problems may get special housing in Lancaster

Niagara Lutheran Health System is moving ahead with a plan to expand its GreenFields Continuing Care Community in Lancaster to add household-style residences for senior citizens with memory problems.

The Lancaster Town Board is expected to vote on the site plan for the project at its April 16 meeting. If the proposal is approved, construction could begin next month.

The first phase of the GreenField Terrace development would cost $6.5 million and provide living arrangements for seniors with memory problems who can, with assistance, take care of themselves.

"I think it's a great concept. I think it will benefit the whole campus, particularly the residents who require dementia care," Jurgen Arndt, Niagara Lutheran's president and CEO, said in an interview.

Niagara Lutheran plans initially to construct four, L-shaped buildings, around a central courtyard, on 8 1/2 acres east of the existing GreenFields property, town officials said.

Each building would hold private apartments for 12 to 15 residents, along with common kitchen areas and living rooms.

The site plan submitted by Niagara Lutheran calls for seven residences in all, though the timeline for the construction of the other three buildings will be driven by demand.

The town Planning Board recommended approval of the site plan last July, but Niagara Lutheran waited to move forward.

A joint meeting of the Planning and Town boards reviewed the project Monday and found it would not harm the environment. Town Engineer Robert Harris is looking over the site plan, the last step before Town Board approval.

GreenField Terrace is the latest development on Niagara Lutheran's Lancaster campus.

It would join GreenField Manor, an independent-living facility; GreenField Court, which offers apartment-style assisted living; and GreenField Health & Rehabilitation Center, which offers long-term care, sub-acute care, short-term rehabilitation and outpatient therapy.

The GreenField Terrace parcel is on Broadway between Cemetery and Pavement roads, with the main GreenFields campus to the west and Lancaster Country Club to the east.

The four GreenField Terrace buildings will surround a fenced-in courtyard, providing residents a space to use without the risk of wandering off, according to documents filed with the town. "They call it the memory unit," said Councilwoman Donna G. Stempniak.

The residences are designed to give seniors with memory problems as much independence as they can handle while still receiving 2 4/7 support from nurses and nurse's aides.

Those seniors didn't have a proper home on the GreenFields campus. Arndt said this is the first facility in the area built from the ground up to offer household-style living for seniors with memory problems. "They have a confusion level, but they're not at end-stage dementia, or end-stage Alzheimer's," he said.

He couldn't say how many staffers will serve the four buildings, though documents filed with the town say the full development would employ 50.

The delay in the project stemmed from the need to receive the approval of the state Health Department and to allow more time to do fund-raising and arrange financing, Arndt said.

Niagara Lutheran obtained an easement from Lancaster Country Club to share the club's retention pond, for storm water runoff, and the building at the southeast corner of the parcel was designed to protect it from errant golf shots from an adjacent fairway, Stempniak said.

The GreenField Terrace project replaces a development of 24 patio homes that Niagara Lutheran previously won approval to build on the same site.

Market research showed more of a need for housing for seniors with impaired memories, Niagara Lutheran Health System officials said last summer.

Construction on GreenField Terrace would begin next month and take nine months to complete, Arndt said.