Parker Home digs in to set up house in Monroe

Story by Cheryl Makin, News Tribune on

MONROE — After its final site approval in late November, The Francis E. Parker Memorial Home broke ground Wednesday for a new 96-bed skilled nursing care residence at 395 Schoolhouse Road in the township.

The groundbreaking marks the next chapter in Parker Home’s 106-year history. Operating nursing care and assisted living facilities in Piscataway, Highland Park and New Brunswick, Parker Home sought out Monroe because of its high population of 19,000 senior citizens.

According to Parker Home spokesperson Jill Fox, the Monroe site was selected based on research demonstrating a strong and growing need for high-quality, affordable care services for the aging population in the area.

Consistent with those findings, Parker provides care for many Monroe residents at its current locations while maintaining a large waiting list with more than 500 individuals from Monroe and surrounding communities, she said.

Controversy reigned as Planning Board members vetoed initial plans and residents voiced concerns over the coming of the nursing home. After a brief visit to the courts, a state Superior Court-approved compromise was reached in which Parker Home lowered the number of units from its original proposal of 128 to 90.

At the groundbreaking ceremony, Roberto Muñiz, president and CEO of Parker Home, shared his company’s long history and continued vision to grow and serve more individuals in need of long-term care services. With a large focus on providing individualized and compassionate care in homelike settings, Parker at Monroe will — like all Parker communities, he said — be guided by the Eden Alternative, a philosophy of person-centered care that embraces aging as a natural stage of life, Muñiz said.

“Consistent with Parker’s tradition of providing the highest-quality affordable care, Parker at Monroe has been designed as a very unique senior living, long-term care residence,” Muñiz said.

In announcing a donation acreage dedicated to open space, Clifford Holland, chairman of the Board of Trustees, said Parker Home is committed to being a responsible and gracious neighbor.

"More than half of the 28-acre site has been donated by Parker Home to Monroe Township in an effort to preserve the natural beauty of the wooded and wetland habitats,” Holland said.

Deputy Commissioner of Senior Services and Health Systems for the New Jersey Department of Health William Conroy praised Parker Home for recognizing the need for skilled care for the senior population in Monroe.

“I am sure that Monroe Township is grateful for Parker’s contributions and will embrace them in the community,” Conroy said.

In concluding the ceremony, William Tibbit, chairman of the Parker at Monroe Task Force said: “How truly unique Parker at Monroe is, in that it was planned and designed by the people who will live and work in the home.”

“It is the hope that this new model of senior living will serve as an example of an environment that fully supports its residents and inspire the community,” he said.

According to Fox, Parker at Monroe will provide residents of Monroe and Middlesex County the opportunity to remain in their communities, staying closely connected to families and friends as they age.

Parker at Monroe will provide skilled care and memory support in village-style homes, each to have a welcoming porch and front-door entry. The homes will have a choice of individual or shared resident suites, each with a shower in a fully accessible bathroom — and will be anchored to a larger common area, giving residents and guests easy access to communitywide social events, casual and formal dining venues, fitness and rehabilitation services, and rooftop terrace gardens, Fox said.

Additionally, Parker Home shares the township’s commitment to maintaining and preserving open space, while selectively using open land to directly benefit residents. Consistent with Parker’s newest developments, the architects are employing green design practices. Fox said construction will be sustainable and energy efficient, employing the latest building technology to ensure ease of operation, service and maintenance.

It is expected that Parker at Monroe will have up to 150 full- and part-time employees serving this community. Continuing in Parker’s tradition of community support, Parker at Monroe will provide extensive opportunities for on-site continuing education, college internships and intergenerational volunteerism, as well as, free caregiver support programs and community health fairs. Parker intends to create affiliations with local hospitals and health-care providers to expand the level of aging services available in the community.

Parker at Monroe is scheduled to open in late fall 2014, Fox said.