The William DeGraw House
Teaneck and Bergen County residents might recognize the name William DeGraw. In 1892, Mr. DeGraw — the man who was responsible for the trolley line that connected Fort Lee to Hackensack — built a house at the intersection of Teaneck Road and Fort Lee Road. (Fort Lee Road was later renamed DeGraw Avenue.)
In the early 1900s, the DeGraw family sold the home to Max Blochwitz. Some time between 1910 and 1915, Mr. Blochwitz gave us the name "Bright Side Manor" and began caring for people with epilepsy.
In the 1930s, the home was advertised as a place "for the treatment and care of incurables, chronic diseases, and general invalidism."
In 1955, Jesse and Pearl Wallace took over operations at Bright Side. In 1960, they added a one-story wing that allowed them to convert the building into a nursing home. A 1960 article by Mildred Taylor, published in The Sunday Sun, wrote that
the home, as spic and span as the most modern hospital, affords pleasant surroundings for 55 patients ranging in age from 48 to 99.
Geriatric Services and New Residents
In 1990, Geriatric Services, Inc., saw potential and acquired the facility, which, at that time, was owned and operated as a residential health care facility by World for Christ Crusade. Geriatric Services, Inc., immediately reached out to the community for support and involvement. With tremendous volunteer and in-kind support, along with grants and private contributions, Bright Side Manor raised the $5 million necessary to transform itself into a modern, clean, and cheerful home. These renovations made Bright Side Manor eligible for licensure as an assisted living facility by the Department of Health and Senior Services. After our 2002 renovation, we went from caring for 50 residents to caring for 65 residents.
Today, that house that Mr. DeGraw built still stands. The sign on the front lawn reads "Bright Side Manor." And inside, older adults live comfortably and are well cared for, and their families don’t have to worry about them missing a meal, a dose of medication, or a mortgage payment.
Each resident has a unique story. It is that diversity of culture, ethnicity, religion, and socioeconomic status — combined with Bright Side Manor's rich history — that makes our community equally unique.
In 2008, we discovered that just down the street from Bright Side Manor, at 60 Bergen Avenue, was an acre and a half of vacant land that was for sale. It seemed like the perfect place for senior housing and an opportunity for Geriatric Services to expand its work beyond the walls of Bright Side Manor. Working with Monarch Housing Consultants, Geriatric Services secured funding to purchase the land and begin plans for the development of a 62 unit HUD 202 Senior Apartment building. This building will provide affordable rental housing for independent seniors aged 62 and over.
"Aging in Place"
In developing plans for the building, Geriatric Services insisted on a design that would allow for aging in place, meaning that as the tenants get older and less independent, services can be made available to provide for their changing needs. The building will offer options such as a dining program, care management, health promotion and monitoring services and a range of other support services to maintain the physical and mental well being of the tenants.
Construction of the building began in late 2014. It is expected to be ready for occupancy in early 2016.
Portable Assisted Living Services
Recognizing that many seniors in subsidized housing are no longer as independent as they were when they first moved in, and these senior tenants are typically low income, relocating to a traditional assisted living is not financially feasible. Most would prefer to remain in their own “home” where they have built relationships within and outside of the building.
Recognizing a growing aging population in subsidized housing, Geriatric Services Group is now offering a Portable Assisted Living Services (PALS) program. This program will bring the special care and services we provide at Bright Side Manor into subsidized senior housing projects throughout Bergen County. It is being piloted at Westwood House, 100 Madison Avenue, Westwood, NJ.
Once successfully launched, the program will gradually expand to other buildings in other communities ensuring that senior tenants can age in place while enjoying all of the services found in assisted living communities.
We're proud to say we're the only organization of our kind in Bergen County, New Jersey.