For Patt Johnson, independence has been a way of life for many years and moving from her home of 51 years on West Highway 30 into Ridge View Estates was never in her plans.
“I had no plans to sell my house and then all of a sudden, it happened,” she said. “I had no idea what Ridge View really was.”
For the past 18 years after her husband, Dr. Rollie Johnson, passed away, she has been living independently in their home on the edge of town. Johnson said that her decision to move to Ridge View last month was based off a few factors. For one, with no immediate family living nearby, Johnson knew that her children worried about her living alone. Additionally, she realized that if she wanted to continue to live independently, selling her home and the approximately two acres of property it sat on might be the answer.
“After my husband died I was doing everything I possibly could to manage it,” Johnson said. “I had two acres and it demanded a lot. Other people would offer help and I would accept their help. I wanted my independence more and more and I could see that if I stayed at my house I wasn’t going to have that because there was too much to do there.”
Johnson said she then realized that if she moved to Ridge View, she could continue to live the life she had become accustomed to.
“I still have my independence. I come and go as I want,” she said. “I have my coffee, I make my bed, I drive, I do things for myself. If I want or need help, I can ask for it.”
Johnson said that planning ahead was important for her, and that doing so gave her adequate time to prepare to make the transition from living in her home, to her apartment style quarters at the assisted living center.
“The beauty of it is I had four months to prepare,” she said. “I was able to go through things and make the move over time.”
Johnson said anyone thinking about moving into an assisted living facility should know that it is more home-like than many people realize, and that living there with others is like living with family and friends.
“It’s like returning to a place where there were many families around,” she said. “You have your independence and people who want to see you can come and go. It’s a home. It truly is your home and it’s marvelous.”
Melissa McCorquodale, the Licensed Assistance Living Director at Ridge View Estates, said that it is important for people like Johnson to begin considering their senior living arrangements as soon as possible, because facilities are finding they have a lengthy waiting list.
“Coming off of COVID we have seen what I call a tidal wave of people interested in our facility,” she said. “We have added so many more people to our waitlist. We even got rid of our one-bedroom apartment guest suite that families who were visiting used because more people needed to move in. My advice is don’t wait until it’s too late to start considering it.”
McCorquodale said that Ridge View offers a wide range of assisted living options, because they serve a community with a wide range of needs.
“We see different categories of people who need different kinds of help,” she said. “Some need help with medications, some need help with basic daily needs like hygiene. But we also see many who just want to live a maintenance free living and can come and go as they please, not having to worry about snow removal or mowing the lawn, things like that.”
A big misconception believed by many, McCorquodale said, is that assisted living facilities are like nursing homes.
“Assisted living is more like a home environment,” she said.
For many aging citizens in Pipestone County and throughout the state of Minnesota, determining whether or not to stay in their home or move into a facility is challenging. For many, cost and availability are factors in their decision making. Statistics supported by senior care informational websites like payingforseniorcare.com, estimate that the average monthly cost of some assisted living centers starts at about $4,000.00, while some nursing homes come in at about $7,441.00 a month. In terms of availability, many centers like Ridge View are finding that the aging population is creating a greater demand for their services as well as lengthy waitlists.
With an aging population, Minnesota is finding that the need for such facilities is rising. The 2019 United States Census placed the county’s 65 and older population at 20.8%. Data collected by Minnesota Compass, a research project led by Wilder Research, estimates that there are approximately 806,000 adults 65 and older (or approximately 15% of the population) in the state as of now, and that number is projected to top over 1.3 million in the next two decades. Additionally, greater Minnesota counties are “greyer” than the Twin Cities, with Pipestone County’s retirement to working age ratio currently sitting at 35% or more, and it is among the highest rated counties in the state.