Category Archives: Aging Resources

All things new

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Karla Vander Bush loves her brand-new kitchen and dining room at Vista Prairie at Fieldcrest in Sheldon, IA. She’s getting ready to show it off at a Grand Re-Opening Celebration on April 13. All of Sheldon is invited to see all things new, the culmination of a renovation that exceeds $1.5 million.

When she became the Culinary Manager two years ago, Karla didn’t dream of being able to offer the choices and quality of food that the new facility now supports, in what’s being rebranded, Prairie Winds Fine Dining. The residents have already responded. “I love to see them happy,” Karla says, beaming with pride.

Fieldcrest’s Senior Executive Director Cal Diekmann is eagerly anticipating the April 13 event. “I’m just so happy for the residents, so happy about the choices they get in the kitchen, the choices where they will be together to enjoy each other, playing cards, putting puzzles together, doing activities, watching movies, all of that,” Cal says. “It just tickles my heart.”

Click the blog links to see photos of Fieldcrest’s newly painted and carpeted public areas. All the furniture is new. The community gleams with cozy corners to gather or read.

Even an investment of more than $1.5 million has its limits. Fieldcrest launched a fundraiser for 50 new chairs in the activities room. We’re close to the goal, thanks to residents and loyal vendors. Please help close out the campaign by sponsoring a chair. Designate your Fieldcrest gift online

Fieldcrest’s memory care unit, renamed Serenity Suites, also is completely refreshed. The 12-unit section now features familiar and restful scenes of the farms many residents operated and of the simple comforts of the kitchen back home.

In addition to the Serenity Suites that provide a long-term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, Fieldcrest offers 69 one- and two-bedroom assisted living apartments for seniors who need access to personal care and supportive services. If you can’t be with us on April 13, please call KayCee for a tour at (712) 324-2338.

Meet Kim Putz

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Last September, Mankato-North Mankato had the lowest unemployment rate of any community in the U.S., at 1.3 percent. The latest rate of 1.5 percent still makes it hard to find staff members for Vista Prairie at Monarch Meadows. It’s among the challenges for Kim Putz, the new Executive Director.

When Kim started in January she also was thrust into leading the response to a compliance audit from the MN Department of Health (MDH), the agency that regulates assisted living communities. “While I wasn’t in my role at the time of the survey, I accepted the challenge to respond to it,” Kim said. “Our caregiving team, with help from our Support Office and colleagues from other Vista Prairie Communities, are at work reacting to every finding and recommendation.”

Kim has the right stuff for the challenge. Her accomplishments and response to hardships combine to produce a deep well of strengths. Her academic background and experience include a BS degree in nursing and a master’s in business administration, plus 12 years of related leadership experience as a nurse. “This was an opportunity for me to branch out into the whole picture,” Kim added. “I’ve been involved with older adults since I was young and started as a nurse’s aide. My final career goal was to get my master’s degree and be an executive director, to oversee the challenges in that role.”

Kim’s personal and family health history also help her relate to the challenges that Monarch Meadows’ residents face. Four years ago, as a single mom with two kids at home, she battled breast cancer. “I underwent a double mastectomy, plus multiple rounds and chemo and radiation,” she said. Shortly after she beat cancer, she witnessed the deaths of her father and sister in 2021.

In her first communication to Vista Prairie residents, family members and staff, Kim made three promises: to be a strong leader, to value continuous learning, and to practice good communication. “Our elders deserve the best,” she emphasized. “They’re at a point in their life when they need us the most. So that’s why we must give the most from ourselves.”

Kim is literally all in. She recently moved-in to the same North Mankato neighborhood where Monarch Meadows is located. 

“I look forward to having a great team,” Kim projected, “who all have the same vision, mission and goals to have a thriving community, a place where people want to come to live, where people want to come and work, to visit, to volunteer, and to maintain that through the long haul.”

Vista Prairie at Monarch Meadows offers 89 one-and-two-bedroom assisted living apartments and 11 care suites. Call Sales Manager Kim Hanson (507) 933-4681 to book a tour.

Re-Union Valentines

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At 96, George still easily recalls how nervous he was to court his sweetheart, Virginia. Now comfortably settled into their apartment at Vista Prairie at Windmills Ponds in Alexandria MN, they tell the story of what led to their marriage 52 years ago. It was a re-union for both of them.

Virginia’s first husband had died of cancer two months before, when she was just 40 years old. His passing left her to raise three teenagers on her own, all while trying to manage eight cottages and a lakefront on the Lucky Acres Resort, which they owned on the west side of nearby Lake Miltona. George and Virginia met when he was a Lucky Acres customer, but they didn’t know each other well.

George made his living as a butcher and as an independent meat products provider. Cancer had taken his first wife two years earlier, leaving him the single father of three children. Because of the timing, George was more ready to pursue a relationship, especially after he got some encouragement from his pastor.

“The Lord took her husband and took your wife, and there’s no time limit,” George recalls the pastor advising him. “I said, ‘People will talk,’ and he said, ‘They’ll talk anyway.’” Even with that blessing, George was mighty nervous to call on Virginia.

“The Lord helped me turn into the resort and to go up and knock on the door,” George reflects. “I told her what the minister had said and that I knew it was early, but when you’re ready to go out, you just let me know.”

The two sets of children were understandably resistant to the courtship at first. As Virginia learned to cope with her grief, she agreed to a dinner date. And the rest was pure romance. “We started dating every Saturday night,” Virginia recalls. “We went dancing.” Virginia acknowledges that George was the better dancer.

“After two dates, her mother called me and invited me and my three children up for a meal,” George recalled. “She wanted to get better acquainted with my children.” Eventually the kids realized how much they loved each other. The courtship led to their marriage in 1970.

George and Virginia honeymooned in Hawaii, knowing they had lots of obstacles to overcome when they got home. While one of the children was married by that time, the other five teenagers needed to share the country house George had built. “We had a terrible time deciding whether he was going to give up the farm or I was going to give up the resort,” Virginia explained. Because of George’s steady, year-round work, Virginia decided to sell the resort.

In their retirement, the couple traveled for nearly a decade with their fifth-wheel trailer, visiting children and grandchildren after they eventually settled out west, in Wyoming, Idaho and Washington.

They’re now happy to call Vista Prairie at Windmill Ponds their latest stop. The community offers assisted living in 65 one- and two-bedroom apartments, designed for seniors who enjoy an active social environment and expect high quality care.

Mountain climber

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Eunice and Judy Wolner climb virtual mountains together at Vista Prairie at Goldfinch Estates in Fairmont, MN. Judy explores the reality of the residents she cares for, like Eunice. As the Lead Care Coordinator for the community’s memory care unit, she has engaged seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease or other forms of dementia, and their family members, for more than 18 years.

Goldfinch’s longest serving staff person, Judy applies her experience in the field to supervise a dedicated staff. “The reason I’m here is because I need to be here,” she says about her calling as a Goldfinch leader. “It’s never been about the money. I feel like somebody has to be there. Our mission here gives families peace.”

While memory care is Judy’s latest adventure, it’s not her first. When she was 21, she and a group of friends climbed Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. The peak is literally next door to Moshi, the village where she grew up with four brothers and three sisters in Tanzania.

She recalls that the climb (Judy is third from left in the photo) took three days to go up and three to come down, for an average of 6-8 hours each day. “This was considered the easiest route but after the first day, I knew why our ancestors called it Kilemanyaaro,” her tribal language’s expression for “cannot be conquered.”

Trans-Atlantic travel was Judy’s next exploration, in her early 20s, as she visited a friend in New York. This love for adventure landed her in Minnesota where she met her husband and got married in 2005. They settled in Fairmont, his hometown, where they are raising their son. Judy quickly secured a position as a Goldfinch Estates resident assistant.

Most folks in Fairmont don’t look like Judy. She sees her ethnicity and race differently. Growing up in a high tourism part of Tanzania with people of all colors, faiths and cultures was a blessing. “There’s a lot of foreigners that come and climb the mountain or go on Safaris,” she says. “Moving to the U.S. was the first time I was referred as ‘Black’ which is a way to distinguish people in the U.S. However, that’s impossible where I was born, with so many shades of the same color. We are simply Tanzanians. It’s more about what part of the country you come from, or what tribe you’re from.”

Living in Fairmont for nearly 20 years, she has helped to educate friends and coworkers about her race, culture, and her career. She recalls one conversation where she responded to a child’s curiosity this way – “We’re just like flowers. Wouldn’t it be terrible if we only had the white roses or the red roses and not all these other colors?” This child’s mother later reflected that she’d frequently wondered how to explain race to her kids.

“If your heart is pure and you tell the truth, there’s no problem,” says Judy, expressing her philosophy. “It all depends on adults and the seeds that get planted early in life.”

And that’s the same philosophy Judy teaches in climbing memory mountains with residents. “Part of our role is to educate family members to accept their loved-ones for who they are now, not who they were before they moved here.”

In addition to its 41 memory care suites, Goldfinch Estates offers 92 one and two-bedroom assisted living apartments for seniors who want access to supportive services while maintaining their independence.

New Year – new home

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When they moved into Vista Prairie at Garnette Gardens in Redwood Falls, MN on January 3, Roman and Shirley earned the community’s “New Year distinction.” Sort of like being the first baby born at a hospital, they’re the first new residents of 2023 to make Garnette Gardens their home. Welcome Roman and Shirley to your two-bedroom apartment!

At the ages of 91 and 85, it was a big decision to leave their Redwood Falls home of 13 years. “It didn’t bother us much,” recalls Roman. “The kids wanted us to move, and we did.” The couple heads a five-generation family, including two daughters and three sons, 15 grandchildren, 16 great grandchildren and a new great-great grandson.

As home transitions go, it didn’t rank nearly as high as the decision Roman and Shirley made to move into Redwood Falls. That 2009 move came after 42 years of cultivating and caring for a 240-acre row-crop farm in Redwood County, west of town. One of their sons is farming that land now, in addition to several hundred acres of his own.

And two other factors made the move make even more sense. The couple’s eldest daughter used to be on Garnette Gardens’ staff. She started the ball rolling. And after the move, they discovered that Linda, a long-time Redwood Falls neighbor, lives just down the hall.

Three meals a day and the laundry service highlight the community’s benefits so far. Then there’s the exercise. “We’re supposed to walk a lot,” Roman says. “We can go up and down the hall and get a lot more exercise than we could at home.”

Garnette Gardens offers 62 one and two-bedroom apartments for seniors who value their independence but need options for personal care and supportive services. We also offer 16 memory care suites. Nine care suites round out the options, offering a higher level of assisted living care and supervision.