WILTON, Conn. — It was 15 years in the making, but the town has now welcomed Wilton Commons and its 23 units of "congregate" housing for seniors in a bustling new building near the train station.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the apartments, which offer a number of services for seniors, took place Nov. 17, with much festivity, at 21 Station Road.
Wilton Commons board Chairman Phil Lauria emceed the ceremonies. He first called for a moment of silence to recognize and remember three board members, Ken Dartley, Barbara Quincy and Joan Starr, who had died in the past year.
After a respectful silence, Lauria continued the program.
“This is the final lap of the journey of Wilton Commons,” he said. “It is now complete with congregate living and independent living offering affordable, safe, first-rate senior living right here in Wilton.”
Lauria explained the difference between the two housing phases of Wilton Commons. In phase one, there are apartments for senior residents who do not require any assistance. They enjoy convenience and social opportunities of senior-friendly living, Lauria said.
Phase two, the congregate housing, offers services for seniors with additional needs, such as common dining, light housekeeping and security.
“They serve a balanced, full hot meal at noon,” Lauria said. “Seniors tell me, and I quote, ‘This is first rate and delicious.’”
Lauria shared a quote from anthropologist Margaret Mead, “Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For indeed, that’s all who ever have,” before listing the groups of caring people involved in bringing the Wilton Commons project to completion.
“You are a beacon of inspiration to those who follow,” Lauria said. “Make life better for others. I look forward to years ahead, watching the reality of this vision unfold. Thanks to each caring individual.”
Lauria then invited George Ciaccio, chairman emeritus of the Wilton Commons board, to speak.
“Marilyn, I think we’re ready to move in,” Ciaccio said to his wife, to chuckles from the crowd. Turning to the crowd, he continued, “Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia! Is this day really happening? Fifteen years in the making, now we have 23 units of congregate living. This is a day of joy and gratitude. Just think what Wilton Commons Congregate will mean to those who live here.”
After thanking the people of Wilton, Phil Lauria, and Renee Dobos, CEO of Mutual Housing Association of Southwestern Connecticut, Ciaccio turned the podium over to Nick Lundgren, deputy commissioner of the State of Connecticut Department of Housing.
Lundgren hailed the creation of Wilton Commons Congregate as an example of listening to what seniors want and need as alternatives to nursing homes.
“Nursing homes are expensive and their level of care is just not necessary for all seniors,” he said.
Lundgren also noted the need to create more housing and the impact doing so has on the economy. “It creates jobs and drives further investment and development,” he said.
“I’m thrilled with this property,” Lundgren said of Wilton Commons, before welcoming Rene Dobos to the podium.
“Welcome home,”Dobos said. “I’ll say it again, welcome home!”
She cited statistics indicating that by 2050, one in five Americans will be over 65, making the need for senior-friendly affordable housing one that will only grow in the future.
“This place was leased up in six weeks,” she said. “That’s a Mutual Housing record. We know seniors skimp on other necessities to keep themselves housed. Not here!”
She mentioned the conveniences made available to Wilton Commons residents, such as onsite physical therapy, prescription delivery, and weekly visiting nurse visits, before revealing the latest service to be offered. Trader Joe’s will provide their excess food to not only Wilton Commons but to other elderly housing sites in the state, Dobos said.
The speeches were followed by a ribbon cutting, after which everyone went inside to enjoy refreshments and admire a photography exhibit on the first floor.