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Prairie Gate residents reverse the trend: a story for Active Aging Week

We have been celebrating Active Aging Week at Presbyterian Homes & Services (PHS) communities through daily activities that promote the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. Our focus on wellness shapes Active Aging Week programs. We also lift up the positive outcomes we see in the lives of our residents who are resilient, determined and capable to shape their own lives.

Most older adults arrive at a senior community supposing that, if their health needs change, they can benefit from the living options with higher levels of care available on the campus. Moving through the “continuum of care from an independent senior apartment to assisted living, then skilled nursing care is a path experienced by many older adults.

Imagine a culture of wellness and support at a senior community strong enough to reverse this pathway. What if the staff and resources at a senior community could help an older adult lessen their care needs and gain independence? 

It’s happened at Prairie Gate, located in Council Bluffs, IA, where three residents have inverted the typical trajectory. Duane, Dorothy and Bob each moved first to The Gables, Prairie Gate’s skilled nursing care center. However, by taking full advantage of Prairie Gate’s wellness resources and environment, they began to regain their strength and independence. Along with the support of the Prairie Gate staff and their own determination, Bob, Duane and Dorothy moved from full-skilled nursing care to assisted living and now to independent senior apartments. That’s gaining independence!

Duane’s story – “a world of difference”

In January 2021, Duane arrived at Prairie Gate’s skilled nursing care center he said, “not in very good shape.” About a year ago he broke his hip and had not walked on his own for months.  “I bounced around [several] care centers. I didn’t improve until I came here,” he recalled. 

Working daily with the Prairie Gate therapy team, Duane was able to regain both his strength and confidence. Beyond merely exercising, he felt that his therapists and all the staff genuinely cared for him and had faith in him.  “I can walk again thanks to [the staff]. They gave me a lot of support and encouragement,” he said.

A month later, Duane moved to an assisted living apartment and then, to his amazement, he was strong enough to move to an independent apartment on July 1. After living for over 3 decades alone in a large house, he says that his apartment is “about the right size.”  Living at Prairie Gate has increased his social engagement, which also factors into his strong recovery.  “It’s a world of difference. I feel like I probably wouldn’t be walking now if I hadn’t moved here.”

Dorothy’s story – “doing so much better!”

Dorothy arrived at Prairie Gate following a hospital stay due to a broken neck. “I was in the care center for several weeks,” she recalled. Daily therapy helped her steadily heal and she moved to assisted living and, not long after, to an independent apartment. “I’m still in physical therapy and I’ll keep it up!” she said. Dorothy acknowledges that she enjoys therapy, especially the kindness and dedication of the therapy team. Her determination and the support she’s received have paid off.  “I’m doing so much better!” she exclaimed.

Dorothy loves living in her independent apartment. She often steps out on her balcony to a great view. “I can see the school and church. There are a lot of trees around,” she describes. She also appreciates the maintenance-free setting. “It’s easy to take care of.”

Most of all, it's the people at Prairie Gate that she likes best. “The staff members are wonderful. They are so friendly and helpful,” she said. “And the people who live here are very friendly.  I’m very comfortable and I enjoy living here.”

Bob’s story – “no plans to move again”

Bob’s path has been anything but straight. As a loving husband and caregiver for his wife, he had spent many years shaping his life around her needs. “I couldn’t keep up,” he admits. When she moved to the Gables care center in October 2020, Bob moved in with her for the required COVID quarantine time. “I didn’t need long term care then, so as soon as I could, I moved to assisted living.”  

After he was hospitalized, Bob return to the care center for his own health needs. In due time, he moved back to assisted living and settled in. With the support of the staff, Bob was able to begin taking care of himself again. “After I got to feeling better and things were working better, I moved to independent living,” he said.  

When Bob’s wife passed away, he thought about leaving Prairie Gate. After so many moves, he realized that he finally felt at home and chose to stay, knowing that he can get the care he needs without compromising his independence.  

Bob enjoys living in his apartment, which is set up to suit his lifestyle, including his big screen TV. “That’s a real plus,” he said.  “I’m very happy with the apartment I have now.”

Bob is also happy with the people who live and work at Prairie Gate. “The staff here is more helpful and friendly than anywhere I’ve been. Overall, it’s a great place to be. I don’t have any plans to move again,” he said.

Gaining independence

Natasha Urinko, campus administrator at Prairie Gate, understands how important active aging is for older adults. “Prairie Gate offers these, and all of our residents, top-notch, quality care that ensures the utmost independence in everything that they do.”

She admires how Bob, Duane and Dorothy have persevered. “What we saw in these individuals was a strong desire to live their life to the fullest,” she said. “Each were willing to heal at their body’s own pace, and work on their own strength in individual ways. This allowed them to progress from skilled nursing to assisted living and now to independent living.” 

Dorothy, Bob and Duane are discovering the best of active aging at Prairie Gate. The pathways they’ve found are testaments to the PHS vision to provide more choices and opportunities for more older adults to live well.”

Discover active aging at a PHS community near you. Click on “Find a Community” to learn more.

Read more about how older adults have gained independence at PHS.
Patsy’s story
Linda’s story
Eileen’s story

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