New Senior Housing Developed by Aging Services Provider Ecumen in North Branch, MN, Shows How Communities Can Ready for the Age Wave

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The Villages of North Branch transforms traditional nursing home into a community people are proud to call home.

Aging is all about living, even at the very end of life

Aging services provider Ecumen (http://www.ecumen.org), Minnesota's largest non-profit senior housing company, is working to transform long-term care with the opening of the senior living community, The Villages of North Branch in North Branch, Minn. The new senior housing community is an example of how communities can meet growing assisted living and care needs.

The Villages of North Branch, a $22 million development, replaces a 1950s-style county-operated nursing home and departs from the traditional nursing home model. Institutional hallways are replaced by small neighborhoods and it features technology to help seniors live as independently as possible. The Villages of North Branch is senior housing that is designed to be an integral part of the larger community, with its café, chapel and meeting rooms open for use by community groups.

"Aging is all about living, even at the very end of life," said Leah Killian-Smith, who is the Ecumen leader at The Villages of North Branch. "We're eliminating the institutionalism and isolation that assisted living can sometimes be known for, by connecting people to each other and promoting vital, successful aging."

The new Ecumen community is wired with QuietCare sensor technology that can help Villages team members spot small health problems before they grow larger and inhibit independence. CareTracker technology eliminates paper recordkeeping and allows team members to spend more time with residents. The Villages also is fully wired for high-speed internet.

"In the previous nursing home, we operated by sets of rules that took the spontaneity out of life," said Killian-Smith. "Five glasses of fluid and a handful of pills for breakfast isn't normal. Two eggs sunny side up with bacon and hash browns, a glass of juice with no meds because they have them before eating is much more normal. Now people get up when they want and eat when they want. That sounds so simple, but in so many assisted living communities it's not. It's time for that to change in America."

About Ecumen
Ecumen (http://www.ecumen.org) is based in Shoreview, Minn., and is one of the largest non-profit senior housing companies in the United States. The name Ecumen comes from the word ecumenical, which in turn is derived from the Greek word for home: "Oikos." Ecumen works to create "home" for older adults wherever they choose to live. Ecumen is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and has 4,000 team members. Ecumen's "Changing Aging" blog is located at http://www.ecumen.org/changing-aging/.

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Eric Schubert
Ecumen
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