InterGenerationalCare

this story was recently published online at: InForum


The afternoon sun is especially bright as it shines in on 88 year-old Eleanor Braaten playing her beloved piano.

“Would you believe my husband bought that piano just one month after we were married?” says Braaten after playing a few bars of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”

For years, the piano sat in the Kindred, N.D. farmhouse where she and husband Elder raised their five children. Now it’s located in Eleanor’s two-bedroom apartment at Pioneer House, Elim Care’s assisted living facility in Fargo.

“My children wanted me to come here so I could have a little help. I like it. I like that I can still play my piano and my neighbors don’t seem to mind,” Eleanor says.

Eleanor Braaten, a former music teacher, enjoys playing her piano in her two-bedroom assisted living apartment at Elim’s Pioneer House in Fargo, N.D. Photo: Dave SamsonEleanor Braaten, a former music teacher, enjoys playing her piano in her two-bedroom assisted living apartment at Elim’s Pioneer House in Fargo, N.D.
Pioneer House has 48 assisted living apartments where people like Eleanor can “get a little help” with everything from keeping medications straight to light housework or help with grooming. The units have full kitchens if residents wish to cook, or they can go to the dining center and eat as a group.

“Well, I’ve cooked for a long time so it’s just fine with me to have someone else cook,” says Eleanor. “The food is very good.”

Campus Administrator Renee Muhonen says residents, like Eleanor, find their facility easy to navigate.

“It’s smaller and homier than some other places,” she says. “Everyone can walk to the dining center and everyone knows each other.”

Pioneer House residents also stay active with classes, game nights, social hours, Bible studies and exercise classes. Buses are available to transport people where they need to go, such as doctor appointments, or when they want to go somewhere, like a fun night at the movies.

If you need a little more assistance than what’s provided at Pioneer House assisted living, Elim Care Center has 116 beds with skilled nursing care and 20 beds in the Rehab Therapy Center which provides patients with physical, occupational and speech therapies as well a place to stay when they’re not quite ready to go home after a hospital stay.

No matter whether Elim residents live in assisted living or long term care, they all get to spend time with some little friends. Since 1996, Elim has had a childcare center right within the facility where children ages 2 and up work and play with residents. Renee calls it “pure joy” for both the residents and children.

“I think the children get an early love of the older generation. These days when so many people live so far away from grandparents, they get that grandparent bond. And I know the residents just love the energy they bring,” Muhonen says.

Lorraine Grove, a resident of Elim Care Center in Fargo, plays with (from left) Carter Hins, Danny Mahli and Ivy Hedlund.

Lorraine Grove, a resident of Elim Care Center in Fargo, plays with (from left) Carter Hins, Danny Mahli and Ivy Hedlund
That was evident when Lorraine Grove joined an exuberant group of 5-year-olds as they played with panda figurines in the preschool room. Other times, it’s quiet, reflective time when the residents read to the children.

In fact, Eleanor says one of the best parts of her piano room is that it overlooks a courtyard area where the kids sometimes play. They’re not out there today, but you can see small boot prints in the snow.

“I love having the children around here,” Eleanor says. “They’re just so beautiful.”

In addition to children, pets are also welcome. A French Bulldog named Gus is a favorite among the residents as he walks down hallways like he owns the place.

Muhonen says having children, plenty of plants and even animals throughout the Elim property is very deliberate.

“Everything we do here incorporates a feeling of home. Whether you care for a plant or an animal or spend time with a child, it’s about giving people purpose and that is a very good thing,” she says.

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