‘Livin’ the Dream’ at Arabella Manor

Worry-free independent living in a quiet, natural Alexandria neighborhood


By Jim Palmer


Arabella Manor is located in a quite, natural setting in Alexandria. Contributed photo

Welcome to “Livin’ the Dream” at Arabella Manor, an exclusive independent living community for those 55 and better, located in a quiet, natural setting in Alexandria. Arabella is woman owned and operated with distinct differences from other senior living facilities in the area.


“We are entirely independent living but the tenants have the ability to bring any service that they want from the provider of their choice,” said Joni Neal, President of Arabella Manor. “We are not attached to a nursing home or memory care. We are completely independent so our tenants can make their own choices.”



“Those services could be medical, grocery or meal delivery, housekeeping or medication management,” said Mariah Hanson, Executive Director of Arabella Manor.

“And tenants have flexibility with these services. If they have someone come in and clean their apartment home and they don’t like how it is being done, they can just hire someone else,” said Neal.


Arabella Manor has eight different floor plans to choose from, ranging from 753 square feet up to 1,625. These one, two- and three-bedroom floor plans feature large kitchens, spacious living rooms, bay windows and are individually climate-controlled. Attached garages are also available as an added amenity.


“We have a lot of people in the building who are entirely independent and more than half of the people who live here still drive,” said Hanson.


Arabella is a maintenance free/worry free community. No one needs to shovel snow, rake the yard or even change a lightbulb. The mail is even delivered inside the buildings for the convenience of the tenants. There is an onsite beauty shop, exercise room, guest suite, library/game room, and an activities schedule that offers bingo, fitness, TV viewing parties and more. Additional conveniences include weekday hot catered meals from our local Cub Foods deli, grocery delivery, as well as Rainbow Rider transportation.


Arabella Manor is women owned and operated. The team includes (front L to R) Chris Coker, Special Projects; Mary Rodel, Administrative Enrichment Coordinator; (back L to R) Joni Neal, President, and Mariah Hanson, Executive Director. Not pictured, Deb Shea, Special Projects Assistant. Photo by Jim Palmer

Because it is a quiet neighborhood, tenants also have “wildlife viewing parties.”


“We have deer, bunnies, turkeys, egrets, mallards, geese and bald eagles visit us. We have a bald eagle nest right up there,” said Hanson, pointing out the window.


“Livin’ the Dream” is the motto that has been used at Arabella for years. Living up to a motto like that over the last 12 months would be a challenge for any senior living community. But Arabella Manor did not change that motto and they believe it remained true, even in the most challenging months. The team at Arabella Manor has been working to keep their tenants safe and happy during the pandemic. Cleaning crews come in to clean all the higher traffic areas, focusing on regularly touched areas, and keeping the air clean was a priority from day one.


“We are set up a little differently than most,” said Neal. “Each of our apartments has its own heating and air conditioning unit. So each tenant is breathing their own air in their own apartment. We have seven furnaces in the common area of each building. A year ago, when the Covid crisis became apparent we contacted Schlangen Air and made the investment of installing ultra violet (UV) light filtration technology in each furnace. The furnace air passes through the UV light which kills a majority of the germs, then the air goes to the furnace filter which removes impurities before it is re-circulated into the common area. I think between that and our tenants being vigilant, we have been able to keep Covid at bay. We did not have one single case of Covid spread in our buildings since the start of this a year ago.”


“We believe mental health is an essential part of it, too,” said Hanson. “So while we were closed for a while at the governor’s orders, we were able allow visitors when we could. Isolation is not healthy. If someone’s daughter was bringing in essential things like groceries, who are we to say they cannot come in? We also advocate for our tenants by providing valuable resources, including Helping Hands volunteer, Coni McKay, who frequents Arabella to run complimentary errands for the tenants. Additionally, we coordinated an on-site COVID-19 vaccination clinic in partnership with Alomere Health.”


“As a result, our tenants are really thriving here,” said Neal.


One of those tenants thriving is Kathleen Wheeler, who grew up in Alexandria but lived in Apple Valley for more than 30 years. She had lost her husband and was looking to move back to Alexandria to live closer to her family.


Tenants got together for a friendly game of cards last month at Arabella Manor. It is just one of the many things going on at the independent living community on a daily basis. Photo by Jim Palmer

“It was time to come home,” she said. “I looked at buying a house and I also considered other senior living places. My son suggested I check out Arabella Manor. He said he thought it would be a good thing for me.”


Her son was right. Kathleen moved into Arabella Manor about six years ago and it has been a great fit.


“I made the right move. If I would have bought a house I would be sitting there all by myself every day. They are so good to me here,” she said. “We are independent, but they are always there to help if we need them. I can’t say enough about them.”


And it didn’t take long before Kathleen started making good friends at Arabella Manor.


“Making friends happened very quickly,” she said. “There is coffee time twice a day, every day, and that is a good time to visit. I like to grab a book and sit down by the fireplace. It is a good spot. After reading for awhile someone will often stop by and we can visit.”


There are also plenty of opportunities to enjoy each other’s company over food.


“In November and December they put together a beautiful dinner over the holidays and that is really nice,” she said. “And every month we have birthday cake to celebrate all the people in the building who have a birthday that month.”


People look out for each other just like a family at Arabella Manor.


“If someone is not feeling good, it seems like someone is always ready with a plate of cookies to share with them,” she said.


Kathleen said the activities also make it easy to stay active if you want to.


Don Borgman has lived at Arabella for a couple of years. He is pictured with Mariah Hanson, Executive Director at Arabella Manor. Borgman was making molasses cookies in preparation for his daughter’s visit. Photo by Jim Palmer

“There are a lot of things going on if you want to participate,” she said. “I have participated in the exercises and a lot of people enjoy playing cards or bingo.”


Don Borgman moved into Arabella Manor a couple of years ago. He was in the middle of baking a large batch of molasses cookies when we talked with him.


“I am making these cookies because my daughter is coming to visit for my birthday,” he said. “And I had a good coach in the kitchen.”


That good coach was his wife, who passed away, and Don was living alone.


“I lived next to the Methodist Church (in Alexandria) and was looking to downsize,” he said. “I don’t need any help so I was looking for a place where I could live by myself.”


Arabella Manor fit the bill. He has enjoyed his stay and really looks forward to coffee time in the morning. He also likes having someone to call if he needs something.


“Mariah and Joni are great. You just ask and they are right here to help,” he said.


The tenants are not the only ones who benefit from living at Arabella Manor. Arlene Baaken is a tenant at Arabella Manor and son, John, and daughter-in-law, Kathy, are thrilled that she is having so much fun in her golden years (now age 93).


“Arlene lost her husband in 2010. She was living in Wahpeton, N.D., and things were getting harder for her,” said Kathy. “She didn’t want to leave the house and community since she had lived in the same house for 60 years, but we convinced her to come to Alexandria and Arabella Manor so she could be closer to us.”


“It took Arlene a little while for her to get used to apartment living,” said Kathy, “but it didn’t take very long for her to start making new friends.”


“She likes to play cards and other games and she is able to do a lot of that there, which she likes.”


Before moving to Arabella Manor, Kathy and John often worried about Arlene living by herself

Arabella Manor has eight different floor plans. Each feature large kitchens, spacious living rooms and bay windows. There is currently one main-level apartment home available. Photo by Jim Palmer

in Wahpeton. They no longer have those worries.


“The people are so nice there,” said Kathy. “We really don’t worry about anything. It is not an assisted living facility, but people are there to help if she needs it. We are just so happy with Arabella Manor. It was the perfect spot for her.”


For Arlene, moving to Arabella took her out of isolation and into a community of friends and activity. That is one of the biggest perks of Arabella Manor.


“I think a lot of people think that when they leave their farm or home that they are destined for the nursing home,” said Hanson. “That is just not true. There is a whole gamut of options. Alexandria really supports our aging population. And Arabella is specifically designed for seniors to live safely, and age in place. There isn’t any push to go into a nursing home. And I think our tenants like to be able to decide what they want to do and what services they want.”


“When we come out there at 9 a.m. or 3 p.m. and see people chitchatting or playing cards, can you imagine if they were at home? Nearly all of them would be alone right now,” said Neal.


In addition to independent senior living, the Arabella family of properties also has a townhome option.


“Arabella Ranch offers inspiring town homes built to your specifications,” said Hanson. For more information on Arabella Ranch, visit www.arabellaranch.com or www.facebook.com/RanchTownhomes.


To learn more about Arabella Manor or to schedule a tour, call 320-763-1763. Arabella Manor is located at 1810 & 1812 Darling Avenue East in Alexandria. Note: One Main Level Apartment Home is currently available!


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