Wilton Commons: Seeing to the needs of the elder community

 

The main entrance of Wilton Commons phase two. There will be overnight security after staff leaves for the day. — Jeannette Ross photo

Phil Lauria and Renée Dobos rest between floors at Wilton Commons phase two. — Jeannette Ross photo

Kitchens at Wilton Commons phase two have full-size appliances and room for a wheelchair under the sink. Non-skid floors accommodate wheelchairs and walkers. — Jeannette Ross photo

A view of an apartment's living/dining area from the kitchen.

The commercial kitchen at Wilton Commons. Residents of phase two may take their mid-day meal a day in the dining room.

The community room has a gas fireplace. Above it will be placed a TV.

A bridge connects phase one and two.

Three years after Wilton Commons first opened, the project is nearing completion with phase two, right next door on Station Road, set to accept tenants next month. While residents of phase one are capable of independent living, phase two will have 23 one-bedroom apartments available for congregate care. The new units raise the number of apartments in the complex — all affordable — to 74.

“We finished three months ahead of schedule,” Phil Lauria, president and chairman of Wilton Commons, told The Bulletin last week. “We had good winter weather where we made a lot of progress.”

Budgeted at $6.5 million, phase two was funded 100% by the state Department of Housing. Mutual Housing of Southwestern Connecticut oversaw the project built by Haynes Construction, with periodic visits by the housing department. Mutual Housing is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to “create and sustain housing, revitalize neighborhoods, and enhance the quality of life for low- and moderate-income residents of Fairfield County.”

Those eligible to live in phase two are seniors 62 or older who are considered frail or “at risk,” needing some level of supportive services in order to remain independent. Among the services they will receive at Wilton Commons are one meal a day (lunch) and light housekeeping services once a week. There is also staff during the day and an overnight security service.

Louis Contadino of Greenwich, the same architect who designed phase one, has married the two buildings in style and color. From the individual apartments to the common areas to the hallways, the new building is bright and airy with numerous windows, some of the them oversized to flood a stairway with light and a view of the sky outside.

“The amenities he’s able to sneak in, none of our other properties have them,” said Renée Dobos, chief executive officer of Mutual Housing. “It feels like home, from the chapel [in phase one] to the common rooms.

Lauria agreed, saying Contadino was “really into the lifestyle” of the residents, from the windows down to designing the handrails in the hallway and placing plugs at a convenient height in each apartment.

“We’ve worked with a lot of architects and he’s really exceptional,” Dobos said.

Each apartment is handicap-accessible with its wide doorways, roll-in shower, and room for a wheelchair under the kitchen sink. Each bathroom and bedroom has an emergency pull-cord which is connected to the fire department.

The 650-square-foot apartments each have one bedroom and an open-plan kitchen-dining-living area. There is a large closet in each bedroom and two hall closets. The kitchens have cherry-stained maple cabinets, laminate counters, full-size white refrigerator, electric stove, oven, and dishwasher.

The kitchen and entryway floors are a wood-grained non-slip material, and the Berber-like carpets are non-trip, suitable for wheelchairs and walkers.

“It’s all ADA-compliant flooring,” Lauria said, referring to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

On the first floor are a commercial kitchen and dining room, which are actually in the phase one building, that can accommodate 40. Lunch each day will be provided by Winfield Street Deli of East Norwalk.

“It’s a high-end deli,” Dobos said. “They are all about fresh, local foods. It won’t be typical institutional food.”

Residents who don’t feel up to eating in the dining room may have a bowl of soup and sandwich delivered to their apartment.

Also on the first floor are a community room with a gas fireplace and television, a “craft room” with a commercial kitchen that can be used for tenant get-togethers with refreshments, and a property management office.

Outside, landscaping was designed by Kate Throckmorton of Wilton, who also designed landscaping for phase one.

Each residential floor has a laundry room, recycle room, and public restrooms. The second and third floors have a bridge to phase one, so residents may access the dining room without going outdoors.

In addition, a hairdresser will set up shop two days a week and there will be free pharmacy delivery. Fr. Reggie of Our Lady of Fatima will say mass and give out Communion once a week. And Mutual Housing is working on arranging on-site physical therapy for those who may need it.

“We will partner with anyone in town who wants to provide a service or a program,” Dobos said.

With all the common areas and hallway alcoves that are inviting for residents to gather, Dobos said furniture donations — sofas, end tables, lamps, etc. — will be welcome.

Transportation is the responsibility of tenants. While there is parking available, many in phase one arrange transportation through Dial-A-Ride, and Stay at Home in Wilton has helped out, too, Lauria said. Some residents even walk into Wilton Center and he said they are waiting for the pedestrian bridge that will link the train station, which is a short walk away, to the town center.

Tenants

A maximum of two residents may live in each apartment and they must have an income that does not exceed 50% of the area median income (AMI).

For residents at 30% or less of AMI, rent for the first year is $690 per month, and $1,150 per month for residents at 50% or less of AMI.

At 30% of AMI, the maximum income is $27,600 for one person, $31,530 for two.

At 50% of AMI, the maximum income is $46,000 for one person, $52,550 for two.

In addition to financial considerations, applicants living in substandard or temporary housing, or abusive situations, or paying more than 50% of their income for rent or housing will receive preference. There is also preference for Wilton residents and those who have a family member living here.

Once living in Wilton Commons, the residential services coordinator will oversee each person’s status. For example, does someone need an oxygen tank? EMS responders need to know which residents are most frail.

“If someone is declining, we can connect them to other social services,” Dobos said. “Then we get the family involved. We never make a suggestion a person should move.”

Congregate housing can be a bridge between independent living and assisted-living or a nursing home.

“This is one of the last congregate units paid for by the state,” Dobos said.

“And it’s terrific that we have it here,” Lauria said.

Applications are now being taken for admission to phase two. For information, visit the Mutual Housing website at mhaswct.org or call 203-359-6940.

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