Word had been going around as long ago as the 1990s that a piece of land just north of Fairview Northland Medical Center in Princeton might become the site of a senior citizen facility.
The idea began taking form when a developer from St. Cloud developed the site, with the city agreeing to give tax increment financing assistance to turn it into what is now the Sterling Pointe Senior Living apartments.
The 57-unit facility, which is operated by The Waters Senior Living and specializes in assisted living and memory care units, opened in August 2011. Sterling Pointe was, in the words of Sterling Pointe Executive Director Marni Gustafson, “the new kid on the block” in senior care in Princeton. This was because the Caley House assisted living apartments had already been operating for about a decade on the edge of Princeton’s central business district.
The Sterling Pointe facility is a long, two-story structure on the west end of Northland Drive just before the road curves to connect with Old Highway 18.
Sterling Pointe has 57 assisted-living apartment units, of which 21 are memory care. Sterling Pointe has been leased at or near capacity since the facility opened, Gustafson said.
Directors and staff members at Sterling Pointe have learned that it is typical that the residents there who need a higher level of care have some amount of dementia, Gustafson said.
“We’re seeing a great need for memory care,” she said.
Working with Caley
While assisted living businesses sometimes compete for tenants, Gustafson said that Sterling Pointe has been nurturing a working relationship with Caley House. That includes planning activities in which the residents of the two facilities get together and form friendships, Gustafson said. The Elim Home has “been here forever and (has) done a fabulous job, and we have nothing but great things to say about it,” Gustafson added. “We have tenants who utilize their therapies.”
As Gustafson talked more about Sterling Pointe, she stated that “care is care” and it’s just a matter of how it is delivered. The workers in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities have a “tough, tough job,” Gustafson said. “The tenants we’re seeing in assisted living not too long ago would have lived in nursing homes.”
As Gustafson talked, an activity was going on in Sterling Pointe’s second floor as part of National Assisted Living Week.
Sterling Pointe had just opened an art gallery, featuring paintings that some of its tenants had done with the assistance of Mneme therapist Suzy Vogel. Vogel has a business in which she goes to senior citizens facilities and, through conversation and helping them paint, she strives to stimulate the minds of the senior citizens.
A cello player, Tony Smith, was playing cello during the art gallery opening, and food was served.
Among the Sterling Pointe residents participating in the event and who had a painting in the gallery was Sheilah Christianson.
Christianson was born in Starbuck and grew up in Hancock. After marrying, she and her husband Eugene Christianson lived in the tiny town of Cyrus for a number of years. After the couple moved to Princeton, Eugene worked at what was then the Greenline Farms dairy operation. Eugene has since passed away and Christianson has lived in Princeton for 30 years, with one year at Sterling Pointe.
Christianson talked about her five children and her grandchildren, and also about her painting.
The painting that Christianson had in the Sterling Pointe gallery is titled Paradise and is of a tropical setting. Christianson said she chose the theme because she finds it “peaceful and very comforting.”
“There is so much to do here,” she said of Sterling Pointe. “There are a lot of trips. I really enjoy it here. We go places on the bus.”
Another Sterling Pointe resident enjoying the art gallery event was Eva Jelinek, who was being visited by son Dennis and his wife Mary and daughter Fran and her husband Norm. They related how Eva has made hundreds of afghans and prayer shawls to give to family members. The recipients now are her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Eva Jelinek’s interests, besides crocheting, include watching plays, game shows and sports, and being around her grandchildren. She was born in Vinton, Iowa, and grew up in Waterloo, where she spent most of her life. She remembers playing with blind children at a school in Vinton. She and her now late husband Gordon married in San Francisco. The couple had three children.
Eva Jelinek moved from Ankeny, Iowa, to Princeton last March.
Mary Jelinek said that one of the things that was attractive about Sterling Pointe, when family members were looking for an assisted living place for her, was the chance at Sterling Pointe to get an apartment with cooking and laundry privileges. Sterling Pointe also has “good outreach” for a senior citizen facility in a town the size of Princeton, Mary Jelinek added. She continued that she was “impressed” with Sterling Pointe’s activities, including the Hawaiian-themed party and the recent Grandparents Day events.
Gustafson said that “wonderful things happen every day with elderly care providers” because of the relationships that develop between the workers and the tenants.
“You can’t work here if you just look at it as a job,” Gustafson continued. “You have to love what you do, love the tenants. We’re fortunate we have a very dedicated staff.”
Gustafson, touching on the number of activities there, also mentioned the tailgating parties for sports games, the knitting club, a Bible study, speakers, cooking/baking activities, entertainment including movies, exercise classes, various field trips including to the local farmers’s market and thrift stores, and the Let’s Garden activity there. The tenants have the chance to tend the plants that the local high school horticulture students put into the planters alongside the building, Gustafson said.
Gustafson noted that the tenants can pick and choose what they want to participate in and that Sterling Pointe has an active tenants council. The president of that council will “address issues with me, concerns or requests,” Gustafson said.
Gustafson stated that since she arrived in Princeton in 2011, she has been asked by various people if the company she works for plans to build another similar facility here. There are no plans for that, she said.
Among Sterling Pointe’s amenities are a coffee shop, wellness area, beauty and barber shop, game room and fireside lounge, plus several apartment floor plans.
Gustafson said she loves her job of working with senior citizens because of what she calls the journey they are on. “The journey matters,” is a tagline she uses in her written correspondence with staff and families, she said.
“It’s really been a great experience with great staff, tenants and family members,” she added. “It’s been very positive.”