Caley House set course for new wave of senior care

Joel Stottrup / Union-Eagle Caley House resident Mabel Anderson rolls dice in a modified game of bingo at Caley last Friday. Seated in middle at end is Caley House Certified Assistant and Activities Assistant Brigitte Leith. Next to Leith is Caley resident Polly Ewing.
Joel Stottrup / Union-Eagle
Caley House resident Mabel Anderson rolls dice in a modified game of bingo at Caley last Friday. Seated in middle at end is Caley House Certified Assistant and Activities Assistant Brigitte Leith. Next to Leith is Caley resident Polly Ewing.

Caley House is Princeton’s first experience in having assisted living apartments, making its debut here in 1997.

Caley, part of the Elim Care organization, was built new as an attachment to the Elim Care & Rehab building along First Street between Seventh and Eighth  avenues. Elim Care is owned by and affiliated with the Evangelical Free Church regionally, according to Ron Sanford, chief of operations at Elim Care based in Eden Prairie.

Caley House has 30 apartments with a range of packages in which the extent of nursing care is a big variable. All the units have a kitchenette, of which 10 have stoves besides the refrigerator, sink and countertop. Caley House serves two meals per day and also has a coffee time.

Caley House is named after one of Princeton’s pioneer businessmen, Thomas H. Caley (1848-1921), who served as a Union soldier in the American Civil War and owned and operated Caley Hardware.

Caley’s mansion stood where the Caley House assisted living facility is today.

The mansion survived into the 1960s, with the Elim Home nursing facility becoming part of the structure before the mansion was demolished.

Today, you can find remnants of the Caley mansion in the lobby of Caley House. They include several oak columns, two big interior doors with oval glass windows, two oak antique fireplace mantles, and some stained glass windows.

The Caley House lobby and lounge has a homey feel and is used for special events such as when volunteer Jim Olson gave presentations there on German traditions and Mary Chmielewski gave a talk on Denmark.


Caley House activities director DiAnne Anderson reviewed the wide range of activities at Caley House.

These include field trips such as to Target Field in Minneapolis to watch a Twins game, trips to a zoo, a ride into the countryside to look at autumn leaves, trips to stores, the library and restaurants, and a tour of homes with lighted Christmas decorations. Caley House tenants had a campfire and ate smores on Sept. 10.

“We kind of let them give us ideas where they want to go,” said Robyn Bayerl, director at Caley the past 1 1/2 years after working for 17 years in the payroll and benefits department next door at Elim.

“For me, planning activities is not just (for) the physical, but also to make them think,” Anderson said. An example of that is Caley’s version of a “Wheel of Fortune” game, in this case, using a whiteboard to fill in blanks with letters to form sentences or phrases.

“We’ve got some smart little crackers here,” Bayerl said.

“They love that one,” Anderson said of the game.

On the physical side, Caley House tenants can participate in horseshoe, can putt golf balls and play a form of volleyball, where the ball is a balloon. Caley House also has a bowling setup to make a bowling alley using lightweight bowling balls and real pins.

Bayerl said many of the residents love doing crafts.

“We just had (ink) stamps donated to us, so we can make cards,” Anderson added. “They like making cards for birthdays.”

Some Caley residents dress up during Halloween and greet children who trick and treat in the lobby.

Some of the Caley residents helped make a float for this year’s Rum River Festival parade in Princeton and then rode on the float. One of those riders, Dick Nitz, was so happy to be in the parade after having been a parade spectator all his life, Bayerl said.

Caley House also gets involved in outdoor picnics.

Volunteers are so important at Caley House, and more are welcome, Anderson said.

Bayerl talked about Caley House and Sterling Pointe having communal events.

“We call it enriching friendships,” Bayerl said. “We’re all in the same business. It’s no secret, so let’s do it together and be open to each other.”

Bayerl said that one of the pluses at Caley House is that it is connected with the Elim Care & Rehab facility, so a person can walk between the two structures without having to step outside.

Tenants’ perspectives

Chester and Lee Ila Olsen are among the newest residents of Caley House. The couple had lived in rural Princeton since 1987 after moving from Staples, where Chester finished a nearly 40-year career in ministry. He had been a pastor in North Dakota, and the Minnesota cities of Sherburn, Comfrey and Staples. Chester just turned 88 and Lee Ila will be 89 in November.

Chester said he and Lee Ila were received warmly when they arrived at Caley and found the atmosphere to be like home.

“We’re thoroughly enjoying it,” Chester continued. “In July, we and another couple were showered with a celebration of 66th (the Olsens’) and 67th wedding anniversaries. The entire staff is so kind and helpful. The services we receive are great. At this time in our aging lives, we cannot be in a better place.”

It is not uncommon for the residents at Caley to come from a rural background. One of those is Don Thompson, 95.

Thompson told a bear story from when he was dairy farming in rural Princeton. He explained how one day when his milk cows were coming up to his farmyard, he noticed a big black bear walking with the cows.

“Boy, was I scared,” he recalled. “I had never seen a bear on the loose before. I had a hog crate there and he walked in and the gate closed behind it. I took the tractor and loaded the crate onto a wagon and pulled it into town. Boy, did I have a lot of onlookers. I should have charged them, but that was not my business.”

The bear must have gotten loose from a zoo or from captivity because some people came over from Isanti County and picked up the bear, Thompson said.

Thompson was one of 12 children growing up. Now he is the lone survivor. Bayerl noted that Thompson is a good horseshoe player and singer.

“It couldn’t be beat,” Thompson said of Caley. He said he likes throwing the rubber horseshoes there and going to Caley House’s Bible study twice a week with Pastor Dan Osborne.

Mabel Anderson, Donna Steinbrecher and Lorraine Doose said, while playing a modified bingo game with dice, that they like the Caley staff members and the activities. Bayerl praised Caley staff members, nurses and volunteers.

Clairmont Keeler, about the same age as Thompson, was also a farmer. Keeler said he likes Caley House, but would prefer to be back running the farm.

“I liked digging in the soil and getting my hands dirty,” he said. He expressed disappointment that he missed out on planting in the Caley garden last spring.

Caley House has a resident meeting every second Friday to hear Caley House news and to make any suggestions, such as outings.

Bayerl noted that the average age of the Caley residents is 90, with the youngest 82.

With all the baby boomers coming into retirement age and the general population aging, Caley’s role is going to be evolving, Bayerl said.

That so many of the elderly “thrive” once they get situated in an assisted living setting with medication management, a daily exercise program and scheduled activities is a “testimony” to such a facility’s value, Bayerl said.