Just Like Home…Only Better. Traditions at North Willow’s new Villas provide worry-free independent living.
Writer // John Cinnamon
If there’s a downside to home ownership, it’s the almost constant maintenance and financial responsibilities. Lawn mowing, utility bills, shoveling snow, cable bills, gutter cleaning, appliance repairmen, the list goes on. And for seniors, the seemingly never-ending hassles can be a real burden during what should be their relaxing golden years. But what if you could still live a completely independent lifestyle without those monthly or even weekly worries?
Traditions at North Willow, a senior community at 1703 W. 86th St. in Indianapolis, now provides the best of both worlds with the addition of The Villas. When fully complete this fall, The Villas will be made up of 50 one- and two-bedroom homes designed specifically for hassle-free independent living. Eight units will be move-in ready this month, while an additional 42 are expected to be finished in October.
“This is phase two of our community,” said Allison Brown, Community Relations Director at Traditions. Phase one is Traditions’ existing three-story building which houses apartments for independent and assisted living, as well as an entire floor dedicated to residents who require memory care.
Brown believes The Villas are a great alternative for people looking for fully independent living in a familiar home-like environment, but without the other headaches that come with home ownership. “These individuals are still active. Driving, involved in the community. Some are still even working,” she said. “We’re seeing a lot of couples move into them.”
55 and Older Active Community
The Villas will be a village-style gated community for the 55 and older set and one of Indianapolis’ premier independent living communities. Each villa will feature a one-car garage, front and back porch area, and floor plans ranging in size from 850 to 1300 square feet. Libby Mellinger, Executive Director of Traditions at North Willow, foresees The Villas as being an especially attractive option for those folks who are tired of the maintenance and upkeep of their current homes.
“It’s worry-free living,” she said, citing the fact that Traditions takes care of all the maintenance. Residents of The Villas “are never going to have to worry about appliances going out, they’re never going to have to deal with cable companies on their own. They’re never going to have to deal with roof maintenance, gutter cleaning, snow removal, all the stuff that we have to deal with when we have a home,” said Mellinger. “It’s for anybody who wants that type of lifestyle.”
She sees the security of The Villas as a big plus, too. “A gated, secured community is important. It’s a concern anytime, but especially with older people who are more vulnerable.”
Even though The Villas is part of the larger Traditions at North Willow campus, it will have the feel of being its own unique village, with its own community center, fitness center, dog park, as well as amenities like 30 meals a month, scheduled transportation, and more. Mellinger expects to have a number of resident-based and resident-lead activities. “We will provide assistance with planning activities for them,” she said. “We will, for sure, be doing some Silver Sneakers programs, pizza parties, things that will bring them together, but also kind of help them coordinate those things.”
“We have activities in the (main) building. We have card groups, book clubs, and we have music and entertainment that come in, so (Villas residents) are always welcome to come in for all that.” Villas residents will have the option of taking advantage of all the amenities offered in Traditions’ main building, including a beauty salon, movie theater, chapel, and fitness center.
While Traditions at North Willow does offer assisted living options in their main building, they will never force a Villas resident to make that transition. “There are some communities that do that,” said Mellinger, “But we are here as support. So if we start to notice that somebody may become unsafe, whether it be medically or physically unsafe to be in a villa, we’ll have a conversation with the family and say, ‘Here are your options.’ And there are a lot of options,” such as home health care, in-home physical therapy or occupational therapy.
“There are so many individual circumstances that take place, that’s what we do,” said Mellinger. “We support each and every individual and figure out what’s next throughout the process.”
And that support comes right from the top. Traditions at North Willow is locally owned and operated, something that Mellinger says sets Traditions apart from other senior communities and assisted living facilities. “Our owners are in this building on a very regular basis, interacting with the residents,” she said. “They are able to determine things that the residents may want to see more of or less of. They come in and sit down with the residents, have meals with the residents. They do care.”
“I’ve worked for other companies,” Mellinger continued, “where the owners are like [The Wizard of] Oz. You hear about them, but you never see them. Whereas the owners here at Traditions have personal relationships with the staff.”
Caring for individuals with dementia or other memory problems creates a specific set of issues. Safety, security, health. Traditions at North Willow has taken special care to see that all of their memory care residents receive the kind of attention they need and deserve. “Memory care is on our third floor,” said Brown. “It’s a completely secured unit. We have a lot of different activities that go on in memory care, therefore it’s more structured than assisted living.”
Part of that structure for memory care residents is a therapy specific to Traditions called Behavior-Based Ergonomic Therapy. Brown explained, “That’s how we’re able to manage symptoms that come along with dementia. If we see someone ‘sundowning’, anxious, experiencing some boredom, then we can set them up with some type of therapy, whether it’s music therapy or watching a movie, based on their social history.”
Mellinger said having the memory care unit on the third floor is key to making sure it’s a safe and secure environment for the residents, with its own dedicated nursing staff. “One thing we’ll see with people with dementia, their safety awareness isn’t what it should be,” said Mellenger. “The security is we don’t have to worry about them wandering off. We see the silver alerts out there; we see people keep their loved ones at home too long and then something tragic happens. A community like this can hopefully prevent something like that from happening.”
The third-floor memory care unit is a large, secured area that its residents are free to roam. “We check on them regularly,” said Mellinger, “but they’re never being stopped, which is also important, too, and that’s why we secure the unit. It prevents our caregivers from having to say, ‘No, you can’t do that’, which then increases anxiety. It allows us to just back off and give them the independence to do what they want to do and have some freedom.” Memory care residents are often included in activities outside the facility, as well, like music programs, ice cream socials, and scenic drives.
For memory care residents “all care is inclusive in what what they pay, so there’s never a level of care going up and down,” said Mellinger. “The families know coming in what they’re going to pay and what is going to be provided to their loved ones.
Physical Therapy in Senior Retirement Living
Physical therapy is often a priority for seniors in a typical assisted living facility. However, more often than not, those seniors have to get that therapy off-site. Not at Traditions. Traditions at North Willow has an in-house therapy team, something unique in the assisted living world.
“Priority Rehab, is in our building five days a week,” said Mellinger. “Their staff, along with our staff, know our residents very well. So when things take place as people age and they start to decline, the more eyes and ears that we have on folks, the better.” For instance, if a resident shows signs of a sudden change in gait – slowing down, shuffling, staggering – the Priority Rehab team will be there to recognize those things. “We have a wellness coordinator, who will be the one that a family will speak to or we would go to directly and say this is what we’re seeing, we’d like them screened,” said Mellinger.
“It’s also a benefit in the event one of our residents goes to a hospital and they come back,” explained Mellinger. “They can receive therapy here immediately to regain strength they may have lost while they were in the hospital and continue their quality of care in their home, versus potentially needing to go to an outside therapist.” The Priority Rehab team at Traditions can provide physical, occupational, and speech therapy.
Close to St. Vincent Hospital
Another advantage of Traditions at North Willow is its proximity to St. Vincent Hospital, which is literally right next door. And that can be a lifesaver “We all know that there are things that take place as we age,” said Mellinger. “And in an emergency situation the quicker we respond the better. Our response time with St. Vincent so close is immediate. I’m talking two to five minutes that we have an ambulance when we call. That is very beneficial. If we think a resident may be experiencing a stroke, they’re getting that treatment immediately.”
How to Move an Elderly Parent or One with Dementia into Assisted Living
Once the decision is made to move yourself or a loved one to Traditions at North Willow – be it to The Villas or into the main building – Traditions can assist on the front, too. “There’s a lot involved (in moving),” said Mellinger, “and the older we get the more difficult it is to figure out how we’re going to manage that process.” Traditions has a moving coordinator on staff that provides resources for moving companies, downsizing specialists, even people that you may want to donate items to. Anything that has to do with the actual process of moving from someone’s home.
With a multitude of social activities, daily happy hours, friendly staff, and local, engaged ownership, you or your loved ones will feel right at home from day one. Schedule a tour of Traditions at North Willow today. 317-876-2916. Or visit online at www.traditionsatnorthwillow.com