Aging Wisely, Living Well: Senior Living
As we get older, time becomes more precious. The best thing we can do is spend that time wisely.
Meals you don’t have to cook, grass you don’t have to cut, opportunities to socialize, the chance to learn and explore personal interests… it’s not only the “new normal” of a college freshman, but can also be the new normal for today’s retirees.
According to Transgenerational Design Matters, an educational, research and advocacy organization, people may live up to 25 percent of their lives in active retirement—thanks to increased life expectancies and energetic lifestyles. Where seniors choose to live is up to them.
One popular option is a continuing care community, when tenants can move through various levels of care from independent living, to assisted living to a dementia unit or a nursing home, all on the same property. It’s one environment where it’s truly possible to “age in place,” without moving every time there’s a change in health.
At Steeple Pointe, a charming 59-unit senior apartment located in the heart of small-town Osseo, tenants 62 and older can receive independent living with services (catered living), assisted living, or memory care services. Some tenants also receive visits from home health aides—available 24/7—who help administer medications, give baths/showers, prepare meals, and do laundry and housekeeping.
“Being located in a small town allows us to have strong ties with community members and a feeling of family with our tenants and staff,” explains Stephanie Ritter, housing and services director, Benedictine Senior Living at Steeple Pointe. “We are also a member of the Benedictine Health System, which has a wonderful set of core values.” The core values at BHS include hospitality, stewardship, respect, and justice.
The three service levels allow tenants to stay in their building longer. When they need to move to a different level, they can. The monthly service fee includes weekly housekeeping, two to three meals per day, an emergency pendant, twice daily “I’m OK checks,” all utilities (with the exception of phone and cable), maintenance and activities. The assisted living packages also include home health care that ranges depending on which services a person needs. Pets are allowed, storage lockers are available for rent, free of charge, and garages are available for a fee.
“The feedback most received from our tenants is that Steeple Pointe feels like home: a warm, loving place,” Ritter says.
Tenants not only rave about the delicious home-cooked meals, “catered to their preferences and taste palates,” but the caring, friendly staff. The small size of the building allows the staff to really get to know the tenants and their families, a key factor in providing personalized care and one-on-one attention.
Another form of senior housing is a cooperative, like Nokomis Square Cooperative, a nonprofit corporation established in the late 70s by members of Minneapolis’ Nokomis area. Their goal was to provide senior housing in the “neighborhood.” The first members moved into Nokomis Square in 1984.
The primary distinction between a housing cooperative and other forms of homeownership is that in a housing cooperative, you don’t directly own real estate. You purchase a share or a membership, entitling you to occupy the apartment or unit of your choice. Your relationship with the cooperative is established by an occupancy agreement or proprietary lease, and every membership has a share in the cooperative and a vote in major decisions and for the board of directors.
Located between Lake Nokomis and Minnehaha Park, in south Minneapolis, the Cooperative is within easy walking distance of the post office, library, several banks and churches, and a supermarket. A cooperative offers the benefits of apartment-style senior living (activities—garden committee, card groups, gentle exercise, men’s coffee, sewing and knitting, prepared meals, and good people extending a warm welcome) with the peace of mind that comes with living in a community setting with 24-hour entrance security.
Auburn Homes and Services, a non-profit Christian based organization serving over 100 seniors in downtown Chaska and near the Ridgeview Medical Center in Waconia—has been caring for seniors since 1928. “A good candidate for our senior community would be someone who is aging and in need of assistance while still maintaining their independence,” explains Sheila Nieland-Snyder, housing administrator, Auburn Homes and Services. “For example, they may need assistance with one or more activities of daily living, but are able to enjoy a quality life.”
Assisted living is a less-restrictive and far more appropriate alternative to nursing home placement for many older adults who can’t live completely independently. Auburn Homes provides a community where people of similar needs and interests interact. The residents care for, encourage, and enjoy one another, providing adult children peace of mind that Mom or Dad are safe, eating properly, and socially active.
Amenities include a theatre, club room, library, café, beauty salon, whirlpool tubs, fitness center, and chef-inspired meals. Perhaps the greatest difference between Auburn Homes and some other assisted living communities in that it has its own spiritual care team that collaborates with residents and their families.
“Our residents love building relationships with each other and with staff,” says Nieland-Snyder. “By building these relationships our residents feel they are part of the community. They feel they have a purpose by participating in life enhancement programming and intergenerational activities with the daycare next door at our Waconia location.”
Lifelong learning and wellness are important aspects of living at Ebenezer Ridges, an intergenerational living community that’s part of the Fairview HealthSystem. Located across the street from Fairview Ridges Hospital in Burnsville, they not only provide child care on campus, but a range of services for seniors, from HUD independent living to assisted living to adult day programs to a nursing home to a recently opened memory care assisted living unit. Over 250 staff and 200 volunteers support the various communities on campus.
“We conduct a customer satisfaction survey and the positive comments we typically hear are that the food is great, the therapists are kind and helpful, the staff is kind and attentive, and the activities are very fun,” says Erin Hilligan, campus administrator, Ebenezer Ridges.
Seniors also love the partnerships with MacPhail Center for Music, Northern Clay Center, and Kairos Intergenerational Dance.
According to www.fairviewebenezer.org, “Ebenezer’s Life Long Learning Initiative is a collection of coordinated arts and education programs designed to foster growth and creativity for seniors.” When seniors keep their mind, body and spirit engaged—benefits include vibrant living, artistic growth, and improved mental and physical health.
Sometimes—despite seniors’ best efforts to stay healthy—they’re thrown curve balls. Rather than living with debilitating pain, or becoming reliant on pain medication, specialty clinics such as Total Healthcare & Physical Medicine, PLLC exist to offer treatment without the use of any lasers, narcotics, acupuncture, pills, or surgery. Good candidates include anyone who experiences peripheral neuropathy in their feet, characterized by “numbness, burning, tingling, pins and needles, or sharp/shooting pains,” says Dr. Joshua Norine, owner of the clinic. The problem can start as a funny feeling in your toes, progressing with time to spread to feet, ankles, shins, calves, knees, and thighs.
The clinic’s medical provider delivers the treatment, without lasers or narcotics.
“Our treatment works no matter how the patient developed the neuropathy; whether they are diabetic or not,” he explains. “The results also last indefinitely, unlike pain pills which are prescribed to the patient forever.”
Medicare and most insurance companies cover the cost (oftentimes Medicare with a secondary insurance company covers 100 percent).
After the treatment, patients commonly report less pain, less tingling, and a return of feeling to their feet, leading to an improvement in sleep, balance, and mobility.
“Everyone deserves an opportunity to improve their quality of life,” says Dr. Norine, whose mother’s own personal struggle with neuropathy, starting in 1990, inspired his career path. “Most people that have peripheral neuropathy have just given up hope—they have accepted that they are the unfortunate ones chosen to live with this condition, and so they modify their life and give up the things they love the most, not by choice, but because of their declining health. Now they can try our program and potentially get their life back.”
Auburn Homes & Services
Benedictine Health System
Ebenezer Memory Care
Nokomis Square Cooperative
Total Healthcare & Physical Medicine