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‘Truly affordable living for seniors’

Realife offers cooperative living in a safe, peaceful St. Cloud neighborhood

Some of the members from Realife Cooperative came together for a photo last month. The group had high praise for the cooperative living arrangement, as well as the people, the food, the gardens and the safe and quiet neighborhood. Photo by Jim Palmer

Some of the members from Realife Cooperative came together for a photo last month. The group had high praise for the cooperative living arrangement, as well as the people, the food, the gardens and the safe and quiet neighborhood. Photo by Jim Palmer

“I like everything about living here,” said Roy, when asked to pinpoint his favorite part about living at Realife Cooperative at Mueller Gardens. “I really do like everything about it.”

Roy was the second person to move into Realife Cooperative when it was built about 10 years ago. He has seen it grow into what another member, Amy, describes as “a very vibrant community.”

What makes Realife Cooperative special? If you ask the members who live there, they will tell you the people, the comraderie, the activities, the location and the concept of cooperative living.

“The cooperative living part of this is unique and really sets us apart,” said Mary Lee, a member.

Under the cooperative setup, members buy a 1/50th share of the cooperative to become joint owners. Members pay a monthly fee that covers the cost of operating and maintaining the coop, such as the mortgage, property tax, insurance, utilities, management and maintenance employees and a repair replacement fund, part of which is tax deductible. Phone, cable and Internet are included in the monthly fee, leaving only electricity. An optional indoor heated parking spot is also available to members for a fee.

“We had lived in a cooperative in Texas before coming here, so we knew how they worked. We knew the financial end of it,” said Ted, who moved in just a couple of months ago, along with his wife, Cookie. “We like the idea of just ownership and writing just one check for everything, and this is nicer than what we had in Texas.”

“I moved in about 10 years ago, and financially it has been just wonderful,” said LuBell, a member. “It was so much easier, better and cheaper than other facilities.”

“This is truly affordable housing for seniors,” said Ken, a member.

“Our kids came up here to see what their parents were spending their inheritance on, and they were thrilled!” said Ted.

Realife is a limited equity cooperative, which is designed to control the price of its units so they don’t fluctuate with the rise and fall of the real estate market. Residents, who are in effect their own landlords, have more control than those who rent because they elect a seven-member resident board of directors who govern the cooperative.

“We all have a say,” said June, a member,“When an issue comes up, we all give our suggestions and then the board makes the decision. It works well.”

The cooperative units were designed with seniors in mind, with a raised dishwasher, raised toilet, step-in shower, reinforced towel bars, wide doors with level handles and 5-foot wide hallways with handrails. It is also a secure building.

“This is a very safe building and a safe neighborhood,” said Mary Lee.

Realife Cooperative is nestled in a quiet, residential neighborhood just off Veterans Drive in the northwest corner of St. Cloud. It has 50 units in the three-story complex and offers 10 different floor plans, each ranging from 700 to 1,450 square feet.

The facility has two elevators and common areas for member use, including a fully equipped great room, a library, activities room, fitness room, wood shop, fireside lounge, craft room and a guest room.

The cooperative is not assisted living so they do not offer services on site. But members in need of outside services, such as home health care, cleaning services or Meals on Wheels, are able to do that.

While the perks of ownership in a safe facility, in a quiet neighborhood are nice, they are not the first thing people at Realife Cooperative like to talk about.

“There is a beautiful garden here,” said Amy. “It is filled with raspberries, zucchinis, squash and more.”

“For people who like to work in the garden, it is great. And for people like me who came here so I didn’t have to garden, it is great, too! I get to enjoy the beautiful gardens every day.”

And that is one of the selling points of Realife Cooperative, according to Dorothy, a member. Doing exactly what you want.

“There are plenty of activities going on,” said Dorothy. “There is always something going on. And if you don’t want to be active in anything, you can do that, too.”

Some of the more popular activities include potlucks, cards, crafts, speakers, grilling out, cooking, church services, movie nights, day trips to parks and shows, longer trips out of the area and out of the state, coffee time, gardening and more. There is also an exercise room, which stays busy throughout the week.

“We now have senior yoga three times a week, and it is well attended, and the attendance keeps going up,” said Amy.

Bob and Patty moved from Hutchinson to Realife Cooperative in October. They have enjoyed many of the activities, but they especially like the no-hassle living of the cooperative.

“After being a home owner my entire adult life with all that goes along with that, it was nice to have everything taken care of. I can just turn the key and walk away and not have to worry about anything,” said Bob.

Bob and Patty also like that there is always someone to chat with and help out.

“Everyone is so friendly,” said Cookie. “They were very welcoming when we moved in, and there is always someone to talk to.

“And it is nice to play with kids who are all the same age as we are,” smiled Bob.

When a member moves into Realife, they also get a built-in support team.

“And if we don’t see someone for a few days, we always check in on them to make sure everything is OK,” said June.

“The people here are just wonderful,” said Muriel, “I have lived here for 10 years, and I have loved every minute of it.”

“People really do care for each other here,” said Dorothy.

While the members receive most of the benefits of living at Realife Cooperative, there are also some benefits that come to the families of the members.

“It is a lot easier for our kids,” said June. “When we leave, they don’t need to worry about watching the house, watering the flowers, taking out the garbage, getting the mail, doing anything.”

If you would like to schedule a tour or learn more about cooperative living, contact Brenda at 320-258-3094 or email

An open house is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 26, from 1-4 p.m. Everyone is welcome to check out the facility and ask as many questions as they like.

Realife will also have a booth at the Expo for Seniors on Aug. 20 at the River’s Edge Convention Center. They invite interested parties to find their booth and learn more about cooperative living.

To find out more about Realife Cooperative at Mueller Gardens, visit their website at, or stop by their Facebook page at

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