Facility on busy Route 57 in Liverpool offers alternative for ‘well elderly’
By Margaret McCormick
Imagine a roomy, comfortable home in a restored historic mansion in a leafy suburb of Syracuse.
You don’t pay the mortgage, taxes or utilities. And you don’t have to mow the grass, shovel snow or have the roof repaired.
You pay rent, but you don’t have to sign a lease. Healthy, home-cooked meals are provided, and you can even request your favorite dishes. You do your own laundry, or you can partner up and take turns with a friend.
You live on your own. But you’re never alone.
Welcome home to The House at 807, a housing alternative for the “well elderly’’ — seniors in overall good health — in the village of Liverpool. The house, with rooms for eight, is on a bus line, a few blocks from Onondaga Lake Park and Johnson Park in the village center.
It’s not a hotel, it’s not a retirement community and it’s not assisted living — though assistance is available in the form of house manager Debra Sacco, who lives on site, and chief cook and shopper Jackie Colasanti, who help residents with their needs, take them on errands and outings and keep the house running smoothly and efficiently.
“Everyone here is very independent,’’ says Colasanti. “The residents like to feel like they’re doing things themselves.’’ At lunch and dinnertime, Colasanti notes, a resident or residents will say: “I can set the table.’’
Norm Andrzejewski, chairman of the House at 807’s volunteer board, says the residence appeals to seniors in good health who desire the atmosphere of a house without the isolation that can come with living alone and without the responsibilities and headaches that accompany home ownership and maintenance. It’s a safe, secure residence with the benefit of companionship and the freedom to come and go. Family members and friends can visit as often as they like.
“The residents don’t have an apartment or house that they have to care for and they don’t have to worry about meals,’’ Andrzejewski says. “They’re with people roughly the same age, and with the same interests.
“From my vantage point,’’ Andrzejewski adds, “I think the companionship is the big advantage.’’
If your travels take you to Liverpool and beyond, you’ve probably driven by House at 807. The large, khaki-colored house with green shutters and orchid front doors is on landscaped grounds, set back from busy Route 57. The house was built in the mid-1800s for Willard Gleason (1823-1883) and his family. Gleason was a supervisor in the Liverpool Salt Yards, according to the Liverpool Historical Society.
In 1994, the house was purchased by the Liverpool Housing Authority, a nonprofit whose mission is to provide housing alternatives in the village for the “independent, well elderly.’’ Prospective residents do not have to live in the village of Liverpool.
House at 807 opened as a residence for seniors in 1997. Renovations and modifications to the house include an open, family-style kitchen for dining and gathering, smoke detectors and sprinkler system and an elevator to the second floor. During the warm weather months, it’s common to see residents relaxing in chairs on the front porch.
As is typical with homes of its age, bedrooms vary in size and closet and storage space is limited. Residents provide their own furnishings and other accents.
For some prospective residents, Sacco says, the thought of downsizing to one room — after a lifetime in a house or many years in an apartment — can be daunting. She says she advises some residents to give the place a trial of several months to see if they like it, placing furniture and other belongings in storage, just in case.
“Once people get here, they love it,’’ Sacco says.
House residents Audrey, in her 70s, and Vonda, 88, support Sacco’s words. The women, who asked that their last names not be used, are sisters-in-law who have known each other more than 50 years.
“I never thought I’d be in here with you,’’ Vonda said to Audrey with a smile on a recent morning.
Audrey lived in Fulton with her niece before moving to House at 807 more than two years ago. She visited three times and gave her transition to new digs careful consideration. She loves the location in the village, and her regular walks there and at Onondaga Lake Park.
“I fit right in,’’ Audrey says. “I love it here. I keep busy.’’
“She keeps us all busy,’’ says Vonda, who lived in an apartment at Harborside Manor in Liverpool before deciding to join her friend at House at 807.
Vonda’s room is on the first floor, a short distance from the laundry room and kitchen. “I’m satisfied here,’’ she says. “I was by myself. My family thinks this is the best move I’ve made.’’
House at 807 often has a waiting list for prospective tenants. In early January, one room was available, and a “for rent’’ sign stood outside in the snow.
With referrals from elder care service providers like Loretto and PACE CNY and positive word-of-mouth from residents like Audrey and Vonda, house manager Sacco guessed the room wouldn’t be empty for long.
“It’s just so homey here,’’ Sacco said. “Everyone looks out for each other.’’