STAPLES -- A couple decades ago, senior citizens didn't have many housing options.
If the responsibility of taking care of their big home became too much, or they just didn't want it anymore, their choices were few: move in with relatives, rent an apartment in a building really meant for young families or singles, or move into a nursing facility -- none of which might be the right fit for an independent person in his or her 70s.
In the 21st century, however, there are options, and those options extend even to rural residents.
The brand new Pine Lawn Estate senior housing in Staples, a town of about 2,000 people, is an excellent example.
Pine Lawn Estate is the wave of the future for housing for senior citizens. It creates a new level of living arrangements for independent seniors, said Senior Housing Director Loree Besser.
"This is not assisted living," Besser said. While residents are welcome to contract outside care services, the complex does not offer nursing-type services in any of its packages.
Pine Lawn Estate is geared toward the independent senior citizen. It is designed to appeal to the senior who no longer wants the responsibilities of taking care of a home, yet wants to be part of a community.
To create a "community within a community," the housing complex offers more than just a place to live. There is a spacious dining area where noon lunches are served and two beautiful, bright sitting areas where residents can enjoy each others' company or entertain visitors. In addition, there are special activities planned in which the residents can choose to participate.
"Residents can be as active in the community as they choose," Besser said.
The 40-unit complex is a combination of two different sizes of one-bedroom apartments, deluxe corner units and large two-bedroom apartments. At first glance, the apartments look like any apartment you'd find in a modern apartment complex, but there is a major difference. These units are designed "senior-friendly," said Besser.
Electrical outlets are placed higher and light switches lower for easy reach, and the lighting level in the building is higher. In addition, each apartment has a frost-free refrigerator, lever handle door hardware and wider halls and doors. The bathrooms all have walk-in showers with a seat and adjustable grab bars, single handle faucets and a separate, large medicine cabinet. To make it even easier, residents have to merely walk down the hall to dispose of trash and recyclables and there are indoor mailboxes.
The size of the apartments are ample. The small one-bedroom boasts 500 square feet, with ample storage space.
The large one-bedroom boasts 610 square feet and a walk-in closet in the bedroom.
The two-bedroom is 810 square feet, and the deluxe corner, one bedroom is 720 square feet.
Just some of the amenities available include paid utilities (except phone, air conditioning and cable), daily noon meal, weekly light housekeeping, non-emergency scheduled transportation, garages, laundry facilities on each floor, elevator. Residents can choose among different packages for the types of services they want, or don't want.
And one of the major conveniences, Besser said, is these services can be included in each month's rent. "There is only one bill to pay, which makes things a lot easier," she said.
An interesting feature of Pine Lawn Estate is its guest room. This is available for rent by the residents for visitors. A person can rent a one-bedroom apartment, which is what he or she needs most of the time, and be assured that for the occasional overnight guest, there are accommodations.
The housing complex opened the end of November. While most of its units are still available, Besser said she has been touring quite a few people through the building.
"It isn't just locals interested," Besser said. A place such as Pine Lawn also appeals to those seniors living in the Twin Cities who want to move up to the lakes area, but not into another big home they have to take care of.
"Seniors need to see what's available before a crisis," Besser said. Besser stresses that Pine Lawn Estate is just one option for seniors. "They have to consider their lifestyle and shop around (for the right type of housing)."
For more information about Pine Lawn Estate or to make an appointment to tour, contact Besser at 894-4460. The office is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturdays by appointment only.
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