Duluth Seniors enjoy independence in assisted living, National Assisted Living Week is Sept 11 - 17Recently the Budgeteer visited with several residents at St. Ann’s to ask them what they enjoy about their senior years.
By: Naomi Yaeger, Duluth Budgeteer News
Recently the Budgeteer visited with several residents at St. Ann’s to ask them what they enjoy about their senior years.
Lucille Otten, 81, retired at 65. “I’ve had a good time ever since, just being me,” she said. Otten has a special friend at St. Ann’s. She says he is a “swell guy” who likes to dance and attend plays.
“I enjoy my life and I praise God for my independence,” she said. After her children grew up and her first husband died at a young age, Otten worked as a housekeeper at a city-owned combination of rest home and hospital in another town in Minnesota. She said her Public Employee Retirement along with Social Security gave her a “pretty good” retirement. After she retired she went to visit a daughter in Harlowton, Mont. She ended up liking it there and just stayed there for ten years. Otten said that a couple of years ago her Duluthian daughter, Debra Goergen, said, ”Mom, do you want to come home?” Otten said that she said to herself, ”Maybe for my last years, I better come home.” St. Ann’s was a move of choice: “ I put myself here so I didn’t have to move again. I want to be somewhere where I know I’m safe. It’s safe, secure. At noon when we eat, everyone is so friendly.”
Otten took this Budgeteer reporter on a stroll down the hall and up a couple floors to see what was going on in the activities room. There we met Shirley Hoff and Rosemary Madison putting together a puzzle. Hoff and Madison said they meet daily to put puzzles together.
We went outside to see the patio where Otten says residents enjoy get-togethers. Sometimes the grills are fired up to make
s’mores. On the patio, Kay Coggins was enjoying the sunshine with her 5-year-old dog Sparky. Coggins said she moved to St. Ann’s from Florida. One of the deciding factors for her was that she could have her dog here.
On the first floor we visited an exercise class. About 20 people, led by a staff member, were stretching their arms and legs.
Jim Hayes, age, 81 says what he enjoys most about his senior years is traveling and his airplane. He owns and pilots a Piper Cherokee, which he keeps in Two Harbors.
“I’m going this afternoon to meet my son in Minneapolis. We’ll go out to lunch and then I’ll come (fly) back,” Hayes said. He grabbed a couple thick books off of his bookshelf. He said he was studying FARs (Federal Air Regulations) because he soon needed to renew his pilot’s certification.
Hayes moved to St. Ann’s in 2006 with his wife Joan.
“She wanted to be here,” Hayes said. ”She got tired of maintaining a house.” And she liked the convenience of having hospitals, clinics and churches nearby. “You don’t need a car because you have bus service handy.” Joan passed away in September of 2010. He said Joan also liked having a hairdresser in the building. The couple had had a home at 10th Street and 13th Avenue East. “We’re still in the same ZIP Code,” Hayes said.
Hayes has a big-screen computer that doubles as a television. He said his children set it up for him. It also has a Wii and he can play videos on the screen. When the Budgeteer stopped by, Hayes had been checking out the weather to plan for the flight he planned to pilot that afternoon.
Jean Severance had lived in Lincoln Park for 55 years. She said her house was a 2-story house with a bathroom in the basement and one on the second floor. Severance, who will be 90 in November, moved to St. Ann’s in 2003.
“My daughter didn’t want me home alone,” said the retired teacher, whose daughter is an attorney in the Twin Cities. “I wanted to stay in Duluth. I love Duluth.”
Severance taught at Stowe Elementary School for 25 years and Lincoln School for 10 years and has lots of ties to the community. As we visited, a friend from the community, Doris Johnson, stopped by. Severance said sometimes former students stop by.
“Most of my friends, sadly, are gone,” said the 90-year-old.
She said that meeting new friends is a positive aspect of assisted living. She said the friendships are not as enduring as friends she made at a younger age, but they are pleasant.
“People in the building are engaging,” she said.
“You learn about their children and what they’re doing. There is an amazing variety of occupations represented,” she said of the residents.
“It’s a different type of friendship,” she continued. “It’s daily interaction with friendly people.”
Severance said she is comfortable at St. Ann’s. When she was younger – still in her 80s – she would walk from St. Ann’s to different activities downtown. Now that she is almost 90, she doesn’t want to fall when walking. So, she doesn’t walk as much. She had been a member of the former Second Presbyterian Church in Lincoln Park. Now she attends the First Presbyterian Church, which she can see out of her window.
Ceramics, bread making, playing cards, tie-dying and joining the residential Council are just some of the activities that Severance said residents could look forward to.
“If you want to bake cookies the kitchen is always open,” she added.
Musical programs put on by outside groups and picnics are other activities that Severance enjoys.
She said a bus takes people shopping and the “little store” inside the building has snacks and toiletries.