Harborlight House Celebrates 50 Years, The Daily Item, August 28, 2012

By Joyce Erekson / The Daily Item

BEVERLY ” As the population ages, the question of how to provide housing for a person who isn’t ready for a nursing home, yet needs some help in day to day living, is one that more and more families are tackling around the dinner table.

Assisted living is often the answer and if money is no object, there is no shortage of choices. For low income individuals, however, finding an assisted living arrangement that is affordable is quite a challenge. Harborlight House in Beverly serves that population and this year it is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

“Our mission is providing housing for low-income people,” Harborlight House director Karen Estey said. “In Massachusetts, especially on the North Shore, there aren’t many assisted living places for low income people.”

Harborlight House dates back to 1963 when First Baptist Church in Beverly bought two Victorian homes to remodel and be used as a congregate living facility for the elderly. Over the years, Harborlight has evolved to meet changing needs. A $5,000,000 capital campaign in the 1990s allowed for a complete renovation that in turn enabled Harblorlight, which already offered 24-hour staffing, meals, laundry and other services, to also expand its personal care and medication management services.

Although Harborlight House does take private pay individuals, most of the residents (31 of 35 right now) find their way to the Beverly facility through PACE (Program for All Inclusive Care). PACE is a program designed to help eligible seniors stay in their own communities rather than be placed in long-term care facilities.

Harborlight House, which is run by Harborlight Community Partners, a non-profit organization that owns/manages a variety of different affordable housing on the North Shore and Cape Ann, is home to 35 residents who each have a private room with a bath as well as access to community dining, living rooms, sun porches and a library.

On a typical afternoon at Harborlight House, many of the residents can be found in the community room engaging in one of the activities organized by activities director Marcia Noseworthy, who has worked there for 17 years.

Fran Pocknett lived in Gloucester before moving to Harborlight House, but she grew up in West Lynn, graduated from Classical High School and worked at General Electric for many years. She and Pearl Goodwin, also of Gloucester, arrived at Harborlight House through the Gloucester PACE program and they often spend a portion of their days at the Gloucester PACE.

When they’re back at Harborlight House, the two often take walks down to the water (two blocks from the 1 Monument Square location), or to a nearby Dollar Store. Doris Smith, who at 98 years old is the senior member of the bunch, also does some walking, but she stays indoors. The residents also play cards, Bingo and watch TV together. The Nintendo Wii that’s hooked up to the television in the community room is also popular, particularly with the guys who stay active with a little bowling.

“We’re busy from the time we open our eyes in the morning until we go to bed,” Pocknett said. “We’re the last two up at night.”

All three women raved about Noseworthy, who they say always has them doing something or going somewhere. Residents are free do come and go as they please, although they are required to check in and out. Estey said some residents are fairly withdrawn when they arrive, possibly because they’re adjusting to not being in their own home. Over time, however, many of them start to join in.

“It’s a very social place,” Estey said. “Marcia is very good at drawing them out, finding out what they’re interested in.”

Estey said the community dining arrangement also goes a long way in helping people to get to know one another.

The amount each person pays to live at Harborlight House is based on income. Those coming through PACE must qualify for Mass Health, which among other things requires no more than $2,000 in assets. Low income residents get to keep about $80 a month with the rest of their income going to Harborlight House. Private pay residents might spend anywhere from $3,500 to $5,000 a month depending on services they require.

Harborlight Community Partners holds a major fundraiser every year and this year, the spotlight will shine on Harborlight House in recognition of its 50th anniversary. The fundraiser is being held Nov. 10 at the Hawthorne Hotel at 5 p.m.

Harborlight Community Partners has several other properties including low income independent housing for seniors, and affordable rental family housing and affordable family housing for first-time buyers.

Joyce Erekson can be reached at jerekson@itemlive.com.