By the River prepares for grand opening, providing homes to seniors

SEBASTIAN — By the River is putting the finishing touches on its four senior-housing buildings in preparation for its December grand opening on Roseland Road in Sebastian.

Forty income restricted seniors will be the first to call the community concept facility home, though currently there are just two who live at By the River for now.

The grand opening will be held at the facility, 11070 Ganga Way, on Dec. 14 at 11 a.m. Officials from By the River envision their housing development as a community — encouraging residents to help each other and share their lives with fellow residents.

France Monahan, 86, had stayed at a retirement home in Vero, but decided it was time to find some place better in becoming one of the first By the River residents.

“Everything is flat here,” she said, explaining that her former home required her to step up and down to get places. With muscular dystrophy, Monahan uses a walker to get around.

Though she has only lived at By the River a couple weeks, she has noticed a difference aready.

She now cooks for herself in the communal kitchen in her building where before she had to rely on the retirement home’s staff to provide meals.

Monahan is also more active, taking up yoga and painting.

“I’ve never painted in my life,” she said, “and never thought I could.”

“In three or four years, she’ll be running the place,” said By the River President Durga Das Hutner.

The By the River organization created the housing development as a pilot project funded through numerous state and local donations. Hutner said if the project is a success  others could replicate it throughout the nation as a way to care for the aging population.

“It’s all about community,” Hutner said, explaining that residents are encouraged to cook for each other or help with laundry with their fellow residents who are unable to do so for themselves.

The site currently consists of four residential buildings, each of which has a communal kitchen, living room and activity room.

In an effort to spark intermingling between the four buildings’ residents, the activity rooms differ in activity, according to Hutner. For example, the rooms are used as a library, a game room, a place for meditation, and as a chapel.

While the housing development is on five acres of Kashi Ashram’s nearly 80-acre property, By the River is its own entity and operates with the support of numerous non-profit groups, including Senior Resource Association, The River Fund, and Volunteers of America.

And while By the River is focused on providing low income seniors with affordable housing, the foundation is also working to offer sustainability through an organic community garden that would help feed the residents.

The buildings, too, were designed with the environment in mind. The walls are lined with windows that let in enough natural light that artificial lights can remain off most of the day. Also, the buildings were oriented in a way so as to maximize heat in the winter and cool in the summer, Hutner said.

The center is run by a small staff and a core group of volunteers, who make sure the residents have what they need. Medical care, however, is arranged between the resident and a third-party provider.

By the River is an interfaith foundation and does not require residents to subscribe to any belief in order to live there. The only requirements By the River residents must meet are that they are older than 62, lacking in at least two daily living activities – such as having low vision and needing transportation assistance – and be at 50 percent or lower of the median income for Indian River County.

For more information about By the River, visit or call (772) 388-1518.

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