In 2004, Gus Noble was hired by the Illinois St. Andrew Society to develop the organization’s Scottish cultural program. The society, which also operates The Scottish Home assisted living facility in North Riverside, was looking to raise awareness not only of the society but its signature charity as well.
Four years later when the economy cratered, the society’s board of directors gave Noble boxes of planning documents that went back a century. His mission was to chart a new path.
“What I realized is that they were asking me to write a strategic plan for an organization dedicated to both whisky tasting and assisted living,” Noble said. “It was such a huge undertaking.”
On July 13, that strategic planning effort, and the direction for the St. Andrew Society, was evident as the organization cut the ribbon on the Caledonian House, a state-of-the art memory care facility and the first major building project on the campus of the Scottish Home, 2800 Desplaines Ave., since the 1990s.
As the name implies, Caledonian House embraces the St. Andrew Society’s Scottish heritage (Caledonia was the Latin name the Romans gave present-day Scotland). But it also points to a likely plan to rebrand the North Riverside campus, which dates to 1910 (the oldest structure dates from 1917; the original building was destroyed by a fire).
To this day, there’s some confusion about who can receive care at The Scottish Home. Is it just for those of Scottish heritage, for example? While the campus’ facilities are open to all, the name can be a stumbling block.
Another local home for the aged, The British Home in Brookfield, changed its name in 2012 to Cantata Adult Life Services to emphasize its evolution from a nursing facility to one that also reached out to anyone over the age of 55 for a variety of health and rehab services, as well as providing independent and assisted living for the elderly.
While “Cantata” doesn’t evoke the organization’s British origins, it appears unlikely that a rebranded Scottish Home would completely abandon its roots. But whatever name the assisted-living campus ends up with, the goal is to broaden the organization’s reach and attract a diverse clientele.
“Identity is not just blood and birthplace,” Noble said. “At our most fundamental core, we are an inclusive, rather than an exclusive, organization. So that sense informs everything.”
Noble took cues from The Green House Project, a nonprofit organization that sought to change the way long-term nursing care was delivered to elderly patients. Those values informed the way Caledonian House, with its emphasis on creating a non-institutional home environment, was designed.
With Caledonian House now about to accept its first patients, Noble said the focus will shift to the Scottish Home itself. The institution, he said, needs to change as demand and demographics change.
The Scottish Home has addressed the need for best-in-class memory care, Noble said. Now what? Should the institution address the need for more independent living? Introduce children into the community by providing child care for local residents and staff?
“As the need in the market and the demographics has changed and shifted with the character of our community, we want to shift and change with that in order to be relevant,” he said.
That examination of branding is still ongoing and, according to Noble, “is not something we’re going to do tomorrow.”
But Caledonian House represents a departure point.