New home for older Alaskans

Posted: Tuesday, May 22, 2001

Lovie Clark sang and waved as she was wheeled into her new home at Wildflower Court this morning. At 86, she could enjoy the ride while others packed boxes and moved furniture.

Clark and other nursing home residents moved from their old home at St. Ann's Care Center downtown to the nonprofit care center's new building behind Bartlett Regional Hospital today.

"It was a pretty smooth move," said 70-year-old Janet Ruotsala, shortly after being wheeled into the building. "I love everything I've seen so far."

So did her daughter, Peggy MacInnis, who stopped to check on Ruotsala.

"It's beautiful," MacInnis said. "It's spacious, it's bright, it's comfortable."

The new building is full of windows. In the main activity room the glass goes almost to the roof, giving a wide view of a few daffodils blooming on the freshly dug hillside and Gastineau Channel beyond. Residents dubbed the airy room "The Yacht Club," said Kathy Kloster, administrator of Wildflower Court.

 

Room with a view: Janet Ruotsala looks out at the scenery in the main activity room of the new Wildflower Court. Residents dubbed the airy room "The Yacht Club."

BRIAN WALLACE / THE JUNEAU EMPIRE

Every bedroom has a window, too. Most of the residents will have their own rooms, after having to share at St. Ann's. All but four of the rooms at Wildflower Court are singles, with individual temperature and lighting controls.

To the residents moving in this morning, Wildflower Court seemed spacious.

"I just arrived. I don't even know which corner of it I'm going to be in," said 101-year-old Anna Hitchcock, as she ate her breakfast in the main room. "I know I can get lost."

Some of the residents have memory problems due to age or illness. Many are likely to wake up not knowing where they are for the first week after the move, said Certified Nurses Aide Tanya Lata.

"A lot of them are very confused. They've been asking me 'When are we moving? Are you moving with us?'" Lata said. "I'm sure they'll be confused the first week."

But Lata also expects the residents will love the new building once they settle in.

The design by Joanne Lott at Jensen Yorba Lott is full of details to enhance the independence of the residents, Kloster said. The rooms have sliding doors with easy-to-use handles. Two inner courtyards give residents a place to wander and tend flowers, without wandering off.

The building is divided into four "homes," each with 15 residents and its own signature color of decor. The four homes all have kitchens, where staff or visiting family can bake cookies or other treats.

"This is an opportunity for staff members and family to come in and do a meal," Kloster said. "Doing things that people have done all their life is a respectful way to live."

The kitchens, windowed rooms, and carpeted floors are a huge change from the worn linoleum and closed-in rooms at St. Ann's, which was originally built as a hospital.

"Compared to what we have been living in, this is a virtual mansion," said Roger Bunton, director of support services.

Kristan Hutchison can be reached at khutchison@juneauempire.com.



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