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Finding a new place to go home
Nov. 4, 2013

Local seniors share their thoughts on home modifications, apartments, assisted living, long-term care

By Starrla Cray
Staff Writer

WRIGHT, McLEOD COUNTIES, MN –Vernon and Mildred Yager aren’t planning to give up their Century Farm in rural Waverly anytime soon – but at 80-plus years old, they’re glad senior housing options are out there.

“I do wonder how long we can stay here,” Mildred said. “When I was asked about the new assisted living facility being built in Howard Lake, I was all for it.”

Mildred has heard good things about assisted living from her sister, who resides at a facility in Delano.

“She thinks she’s got the world over there,” Mildred said. “She really brags it up.”

According to the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, 86 percent of people ages 75 and older report being “very satisfied” with their current housing situation – whether it’s a house, apartment, assisted living facility, or nursing home.

Despite overall satisfaction, though, transitioning to a new place can still be tough.

“A lot of people try to stay in their homes until someone carries them out,” said Burton Horsch, who remembers his mother being reluctant to leave her home many years ago.

Eventually, Horsch’s mother bought a house in town, which was easier to maintain than her place in the country.

“Pretty soon, she met other ladies her age, and they’d go to the café for a slice of pie together,” Horsch said.

Staying at home
Horsch and his wife, Marlys, have been living on a farm near Carlson’s Orchard (west of Winsted) the past 50 years.

“As long as we can be as independent as we are, we plan to stay,” said Horsch, who currently serves on the Wright-Hennepin Cooperative Electric Association board, is in his 25th year on the Victor Township Board, and drives school bus for the Dassel-Cokato School District.

Lucy Lahr and her husband, Myron (president of the Howard Lake Senior Citizens Club), also live independently. They built their country home on McLeod County Road 6 in 1965.

“We just installed an Acorn stair lift this year,” Lucy said, explaining that she’s lost some of the strength in her legs. “I’m thankful I don’t have to move out of my house.”

Ninety-four-year-old Millie Molnau of Howard Lake doesn’t climb stairs anymore, either.

“My children forbid me to go upstairs or down the basement,” she said.

Opting for apartments
The Minnesota Board on Aging estimates that 11 percent of people ages 75 and older need wheelchair or handicapped accessibility in their living spaces. In that same age group, 34 percent need assistance with ongoing maintenance and repair.

One solution to these ongoing needs is to move to an apartment.

Harlan Adickes and his wife, Donna, moved to Heritage Square Senior Apartments (part of Good Samaritan Society in Howard Lake) about five years ago.

At first, Donna wanted to stay home, but was later glad they made the switch.

“She loved it – we both enjoyed it,” Harlan said, adding that they had a patio where they could spend time outdoors.

A look at long-term care
In August, Donna transitioned to the nursing home portion of Good Samaritan Society, due to Alzheimer’s Disease.

Harlan, who has known Donna since they went to high school together in Howard Lake, said the disease has been frustrating for both of them. They are both 81 years old, and have been married since 1953.

Health was also a concern for Dorothy Picha, who has had three hip surgeries in the past 12 years. She moved to St. Mary’s Care Center in Winsted in July, and is pleased with the facility.

“I still would like to be home, but since I can’t, I’m happy to be here,” Picha said. “It’s a Christian home, and they take very good care of me. It’s a nice place to be.”

One of the benefits of living at St. Mary’s has been the food, according to Picha.

“That’s the best part – I don’t have to think about three meals a day,” she said. “It makes it very simple.”

Picha also enjoys making new friends and participating in activities at St. Mary’s.

“I like to keep busy,” she said, adding that she attends Mass at the on-site chapel every day.

Double the seniors
In 2010, there were close to 680,000 senior citizens in Minnesota. By 2030, that number is expected to nearly double (to 1.3 million).

At that time, one-fifth of the state’s population will be 65 or older, according to an article by Jennifer Schuller of the University of Minnesota.

The proportion of senior citizens varies county to county, the Minnesota State Demographic Center reported.

In 2010, the Twin Cities region (including Wright, Carver, McLeod, and other counties) had a relatively low number of seniors – between 6.5 to 15 percent of the population. In some counties on the outer edges of the state, between 30 to 40 percent of people are currently 65 and older.

As the population ages, senior housing needs will continue to rise.

Amidst potential changes in housing or health, though, local seniors seem to take each day in stride.

“That’s the way life is,” Horsch said. “We’ve never been promised every day is going to be the same.”

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