‘We are kind of like a family’

Lyla Kroells, a resident at The Harbor, shares a fun moment with Terri Ratter, The Harbor RN. Contributed photo

The Harbor allows residents to age in place, enjoy every day

It’s not unusual to feel like “the walls are closing in” from being cooped up during long, cold Minnesota winters. But Sylvia Kuenzel doesn’t have time to feel bored or lonely.

The resident of The Harbor at Peace Village in Norwood Young America eats dinner with friends every day, and she stays active going to exercise class, book club, church, crafts and bingo. There are also movies, Bible studies, birthday and holiday parties and live entertainment offered at The Harbor, where Kuenzel lives in her one-bedroom apartment. She can choose to be as busy as she wants.

The Harbor, an assisted living community, is managed by ECUMEN, and their goal is for their residents to have the freedom to spend their time doing whatever they enjoy.

“I’ve lived here about five years,” said Kuenzel. “My husband (Dennis) had a stroke, and we wanted to be together, so we came here.” (Dennis’ health declined, and he passed away in 2013.) “There comes a time when you can’t manage the house and the lawn anymore. So, we moved here from our home in Lester Prairie. Now, this is my home, and everyone here takes care of us. I know everyone here. We are kind of like a family.”

She’s held Kuenzel family gatherings with her children and grandchildren at The Harbor. “We can reserve the second floor dining room, and there’s no cost. We had Thanksgiving and Christmas here, and we had a cookie-baking day, too.”

Kuenzel didn’t have as much leisure time when she and her husband were farming near Plato and raising their four children. “Now, I raise my hand,” she said, smiling, as she referred to her willingness to try new things and to participate in a lot of activities. She enjoys the weekly book club, which is currently discussing All Hell Broke Loose, about the Armistice Day blizzard in 1940, when 59 people died in the Minnesota megastorm.

Sylvia Kuenzel, a resident at The Harbor, enjoys a relaxing day with a good book. Photo by Cathy Nelson

Bonita Heilman, Recreation Coordinator at The Harbor, reads to the book group every Monday. “People here tend to like books written in the 1940’s, because that’s when they were growing up,” she said. “They have lots of memories to share with one another.”

“The Harbor at Peace Village opened with 36 apartments in 2006,” Heilman explained. The apartments have full kitchens, but residents receive one meal a day in the dining room, which helps build a strong community. “They can choose which meal they want–breakfast, dinner or supper. We just don’t want people to isolate themselves in their apartments.”

Laundry service and light housekeeping are provided weekly for residents at The Harbor. There is a hair salon on-site and transportation to local stores is available weekly. Health care professionals are on duty 24 hours a day, and personal care services and nursing assistance are available to residents if needed.

The Peace Village campus also includes The Villa, which offers income-based one and two-bedroom apartments. Walkways connect The Villa to The Harbor, offering residents a convenient way to walk safely indoors and get exercise during all weather conditions.

Work is underway for an addition to the Peace Village campus. The Haven will open in April. “We’re excited about our new addition,” said Heilman. The Haven at Peace Village will be connected to The Harbor and The Villa by walkways. The Haven will have 37 apartments, 12 of which will be for memory care.

Marie Dietel and Malinda Stoeckmann read a book together at The Harbor at Peace Village in Norwood Young America. Photo by Cathy Nelson

There is new research and new techniques that are being used for dementia patients to improve their quality of life, Heilman explained. Alternative therapies do not rely on anti-psychotic medications to decrease agitation, but instead use other techniques like aromatherapy, music and sounds, and more hands-on activities and one-on-one attention. These therapies can have a calming effect on a person and reduce the need for medications. Doll therapy, holding and rocking weighted babies, can be calming to dementia patients. Staff are learning about these new techniques through ECUMEN’s Awakenings program in order to offer future residents in assisted living and memory care at The Harbor and The Haven a better quality of life.

Staff at The Harbor believe every person has a story to tell. Heilman and a volunteer are helping residents tell their story by asking them questions about their lives, recording answers, and scanning family photographs. After all the information is gathered and the story is written, personalized Celebrations of Life books are printed for each resident and copies of the books are available in the life library for anyone to read. It’s an opportunity to get to know neighbors better. Sylvia Kuenzel was one of the first residents to complete the Celebrations of Life book.

Another resident of The Harbor is Marie Dietel, who has lived in the Norwood Young America area her whole life. She’s grateful that everything is accessible at her new home and that there are no steps. “My brother lives here, too,” she said, “and I cook for us every night in my apartment.” She’s been involved in the book club discussion of All Hell Broke Loose. “I remember that blizzard! We didn’t leave the house for a week.”

Kuenzel and Dietel are happy in their new home and community at The Harbor. They have friends, helpful, caring staff and the freedom to spend their time doing whatever they enjoy.

The Haven at Peace Village opens in Norwood Young America in April. Contact Laurie Hilgers, housing manager, at 952-467-9683 for more information about The Haven or The Harbor. You can also contact her at LaurieHilgers@ecumen.org or check out the website at www.peacevillagenya.org.

#NorwoodYoungAmerica #PeaceVillage #TheHarbor

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