CALUMET - When 96-year-old Valeda Tomasi decided to move from her Laurium residence into Aspirus Keweenaw Northridge Pines last September, the comforts of home were never once lost.
"It's just like an extension of my house. It's absolutely ideal," she said with ease, while adding it was a decision she made all on her own. "When I go in my room, it's like I'm back home."
Located off Veterans Memorial Highway (M-203) in Calumet, Aspirus Keweenaw Northridge Pines assisted living community is designed specifically for senior citizens who want to continue living in the Keweenaw, but prefer not to live alone. Offering a range of supportive services in a socially active environment, Northridge Pines provides senior citizens a comfortable, secure and independent lifestyle with respect to each individual's needs.
Aspirus Keweenaw Northridge Pines Director Linette Butkonen, left, stands with resident Valeda Tomasi near the 180-gallon fresh water aquarium in the seating area of the assisted living community recently.
"We're here to help them continue to be independent and do the things they've always done," said Northridge Pines Director Linette Butkonen, R.N. "What's nice is that here, you don't have that worry of being alone. There's always someone here 24-hours a day."
Northridge Pines offers 21 residential suites, ranging in size from small, medium and large. Each suite includes cable television, a kitchenette with a microwave, sink and refrigerator, air conditioning, wiring for Internet access and an emergency call service.
"There are two pull cords in case of emergency," Linette said, noting one is located in the bathroom and the other is in the main living area. "You have that security knowing you can pull a cord or open your door and there's always somebody there to respond."
Visitors and residents of Northridge Pines will find the atmosphere warm, welcoming and exceptionally home-like. Just off the entranceway, there's a cozy seating area, accented by a 180-gallon fresh water aquarium. Seating extends outdoors, where there is a patio and porch with lush, colorful flower gardens.
"Calumet's third-grade class has been wonderful. They do a lot of our planting," Linette said. "The kids get to plant with the residents and then we put out the goodies and refreshments."
With the help of the staff at Northridge Pines, residents are welcome to entertain guests in the cafe, private dining room, or in one of the spacious living rooms.
Family members will be at ease knowing their loved ones are safe and comfortable at Northridge Pines. The staff provides daily well-being checks, private mailboxes, housekeeping, laundry, medication administration, bathing, maintenance and all of the meals are prepared on site. There's even an in-house salon for the residents.
"Once you come here, you have one monthly charge for rent, that's it. You don't have the worries of keeping up a home," she said. "They're able to come and go as they please. They just let a staff member know where they're going, and for how long, so no one worries. There's a sign out sheet."
Management support specialist Lori Bohlsen, who is also the facility's activities director, is in charge of coordinating a variety of social activities for the residents. Activities range from bingo and arts and crafts to music and exercise.
"Susan Burak comes in and instructs a sittercise program, where the residents sit down while doing various kinds of arm and leg exercises," Linette said. "She incorporates all sorts of fun things for the residents. They have fun."
Adding to the entertainment are planned events such as carnivals, senior prom and occasional music performed by local artists.
"The best part is, when you're here, you shouldn't have to go out for entertainment," Linette said. "They just love it."
Valeda said she loves the music, and once and a while, likes to sing along. On top of that, she enjoys the food.
"It's great ... very nutritious and well balanced," she said, adding that the staff has been wonderful since she's moved in. "I have not one complaint about these girls. They do anything you would like them to."
Linette said if there's an errand that needs to be run, or a doctor's appointment scheduled, the staff is more than willing to accommodate the residents.
"We make sure that they get there," she said.
Assisted living aide Wendy Stevens, who worked in hospice care for several years, said her position at Northridge Pines doesn't feel like a job at all.
"This is my piece of heaven," she said. "I can't wait to get here. It's just like being with your grandparents. It's easy on the heart."
For a lot of people, as they get older, living alone can be difficult, especially if family and friends live out of the area.
"The evenings can be a hard time, and if they're only seeing their kids here and there, it's especially lonely for them," Linette said. "Here, we literally become their family. This is their home. We're just here to make their home life better."
Northridge Pines has been open for the past nine years and is licensed by the State of Michigan as a Home for the Aged.
Linette said the last three Home for the Aged inspections have been citation free.
"This is a huge reflection on the care and compassion of our dedicated staff," she said.
Anyone who is interested in Northridge Pines is welcome to join the residents and the staff for a meal to get a feel for the atmosphere.
"It's a great opportunity for them to interact with the people who live here, meet the staff and get a feel for the environment," she said. "It's the best way to know if it's a fit."
Aspirus Keweenaw Northridge Pines is located at 25125 Veterans Memorial Highway (M-203) in Calumet.
For more information, call 337-1416 or visit aspiruskeweenaw.org and click on the "assisted living centers" link under the list of services.
Editor's note: This feature is part of a paid advertising package purchased by Aspirus Keweenaw Northridge Pines of Calumet. Businesses interested in being featured on the Business page may call Yvonne Robillard at 483-2220.