Peace Village looking at specialized senior care

With popular housing already in place at Peace Villa and The Harbor, as well as the new addition of the Oak Grove Senior Residence, Norwood Young America is already a senior-friendly community.

If a number of groups already at work in NYA have their way, however, a new dimension of senior housing and care will be coming to town in the future.

Members of the Peace Villa Board, The Harbor and the Senior Advisory Committee attended the NYA City Council meeting on Monday, Feb. 11 and requested that the council consider aiding a project to bring memory care and enhanced assisted living units to town.

According to their presentation, 25 residents from the Peace Village campus have been moved out of town to memory care facilities, and the campus would like to improve its “continuum of care” so that seniors with more serious care needs can still stay in NYA.

To that end, those groups are proposing construction of another building with 24-36 units just east of the current campus for use by residents dealing with memory loss or needing enhanced care beyond what is provided at the campus at present.

The group has already begun a loan application process through the USDA Rural Development Community Facilities program to fund construction of the building, but ran into an obstacle when upfront costs of $40,000 were required for a financial feasibility report and a market study.

Since the city is generating positive revenues from The Harbor, which it bonded to finance in 2006, project representatives requested that the city consider providing that $40,000 out of refinancing savings from The Harbor bond.

If the project is completed, the city would be reimbursed that $40,000, but if not the city would not recover those funds. Since there is a pool of money available on a first-come, first-serve basis through the USDA program, project advocates explained to the council that they felt a certain level of urgency in obtaining the council’s assistance to keep their application moving forward.

At present, there is no construction schedule, and the feasibility study itself could take three to six months to complete.

According to a variety of individuals who spoke at the meeting, those currently involved with senior affairs in the community believe there is a definite need for such a facility. Both Carolyn Durbin and JR Hoernemann spoke about the impact of memory loss in their lives, having lost spouses to such illnesses. They also talked about the difficulty of moving their spouses to outside communities in order to get them proper care.

Hoernemann added that he knows of at least seven other Alzheimer’s patients in the community who may eventually need to be moved outside of town.

“There’s a need here. I’ve gone through it,” he said.

Hoernemann also pointed out that a memory care and enhanced care facility would create a large number of jobs in the community because such facilities require a high ratio of staff to residents.

Peace Villa and Harbor directors Brenda Schmitz and Lori Hilgers also shared some information about the success of the current campus.

Peace Villa was built in 1978 and has 61 apartments that currently house 110 seniors, and there is a waiting list for new residents. The Harbor was constructed in 2006 to accommodate those who needed additional care but may have been living at Peace Villa and wanted to stay in the community.

After a variety of funding avenues for The Harbor failed, the city agreed to bond for the project as a last resort. Since its opening, The Harbor has been home to 110 residents from the surrounding family and there is a staff of 28 caretakers.

According to Hilgers’ presentation, about 40 percent of those seniors were without immediate family, and found a sense of community in that location.

“Without our providing 24/7 care, they would have needed to go to a nursing home,” said Hilgers.

After opening in October of 2006, The Harbor reached capacity in June of 2008, seven months ahead of its target date. Ever since, the building has had full occupancy with a waiting list. Hilgers said she generally fields three inquiries per week, and puts one of those inquirers on the waiting list.

As for who the current residents are, Hilgers explained that the typical Harbor resident is 84 years old, and most likely female (there is a 70/30 ratio of women to men). The average resident spends 20 months living at The Harbor.

Council members thanked the presenters for their thorough information, and after a few additional questions such as clarifying what enhanced care was (care that might require specialized equipment or a one-on-one staff ratio) unanimously approved the use of The Harbor funds to help cover the costs required by the loan application.

Contact Paul Downer at [email protected]