“Space to Be My Own”: Otterbein Small House a Sanctuary for Elder Living With Multiple Sclerosis

Posted on: June 4, 2024

When an older adult is unable to live alone at home and needs ongoing medical care, skilled nursing is often the best option. Typically, this happens in a later season of life ― mid to late 80s ― but for some with certain degenerative conditions, this can occur sooner.

Otterbein SeniorLife Neighborhoods are an ideal setting for those in this situation. Also known as small house neighborhoods, they consist of multiple “small houses” with no more than 12 people (referred to as elders) per house. Each elder has their own private suite with a private bathroom, and many aspects of life in a SeniorLife Neighborhood, such as eating meals, more closely resemble living at home than at a traditional nursing home.

Living With Multiple Sclerosis: Robin’s Story

Robin E., an elder living at the Otterbein Perrysburg SeniorLife Neighborhood, lives with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord. Prior to moving to Otterbein, she lived in a different skilled nursing community, but she wasn’t happy with the accommodations. The Otterbein small house neighborhood model really stood out to her.

“Otterbein was unique. The small houses aren’t like traditional facilities, and I liked that all of the rooms were private with private bathrooms and I’d never have to worry about transitioning into a shared room,” said Robin. “I also liked that the houses were limited to a small number of people, so it makes it feel more like living at home.”

Take a Video Tour of a SeniorLife Neighborhood Private Suite >>

Independence and Autonomy

Another factor that sets small house neighborhoods apart is that elders are free to make their own daily schedule and can decide how to spend their time. Giving them this kind of freedom and autonomy helps them live with dignity and personal fulfillment.

“I am an early bird, so normally I get myself up and get ready for the day,” she said. “I am not a breakfast eater so normally I just have tea with the other elders as they get up. Usually, we end up staying out in the dining room or living area and visiting and or doing activities together.”

Because she is not as advanced in years as some of her fellow elders, Robin is still able to do several activities of daily living with little to no assistance. However, if she needs help with anything, staff partners are always available at a moment’s notice.

See What Rehab and Therapy Are Like at a SeniorLife Neighborhood >>

Close-Knit Family Atmosphere

Because each house only has a few elders, those living together in the same house become like a family unit. They eat meals together, they play games and do activities together, and they celebrate special occasions together like birthdays and holidays. Of course, elders’ family members are welcome to join in whenever they like, too.

For Robin, the relationships she’s built with her fellow elders and staff have been a major plus and have helped enhance her daily experiences.

“Nothing has really surprised me other than the friendships I’ve been able to create with the other elders in the house. We do a lot together,” she said. “My interactions are almost always positive. The other people in the house get along, and the staff knows each of us and our needs. The house works well together.”

“They’re So Good to Me”: Otterbein Small House Elder Tells Her Story >>

Elders eating dessert together at a small house neighborhood.

Why Choose an Otterbein SeniorLife Neighborhood?

Looking back, Robin is so glad she came to Otterbein. After all, she’s been through with MS and living in a previous skilled nursing community, she realizes just how much richer life is every day.

“Having MS and transitioning from home was a big change, and having my own personal space was most important to me,” said Robin. “Otterbein gives me the space to be my own. I can work off my own schedule and go at my own pace. Otterbein has been a wonderful experience.”

Want to learn more about this revolutionary model of skilled nursing care? Watch the video below for a quick overview.

More About Otterbein SeniorLife Neighborhoods