Sunday, March 05, 2000

Nursing home gets new life

Towers designed for seniors

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — The old St. John's Nursing Home has been vacant since 1997, after a critical state investigation effectively closed it down.

        Next month, after a $4 million face lift, the high-rise in Covington will reopen as Baptist Towers. More closely resembling a hotel or apartment complex than a nursing home, Baptist Towers will be designed for anyone age 55 or older.

        The idea is, once you move in, you won't have to move out.

        It's a growing trend throughout the nation — senior residential projects that provide widely varying levels of independent or assisted living — just in time for Baby Boomers entering their platinum years.

        Operated by the Northern Kentucky Baptist Association, the area's largest private senior care provider, the project will include 114 living units, everything from efficiencies to one-bedroom apartments, to “personal care units.”

        Don't expect an antiseptic look, said Gary Parker, executive director of Baptist Life Communities, a subsidiary of the Northern Kentucky Baptist Association.

        Baptist Towers' canopied entrance will lead to a foyer with a 21-foot-high ceiling, complete with crystal chandelier, he said. From the second-floor balcony, which is open on three sides, residents will be able to gaze down at plants, caged birds and a small waterfall.

        Outside, there will be a patio area, as well as landscaping throughout the grounds.

        “Part of what this organization is trying to do is to create a model that will allow us to deal with the growing elderly population,” Mr. Parker said.

        “We want to help (senior citizens) preserve their assets longer by providing lower, less expensive levels of care.... The last place we want them to go is the nursing home.”

        That philosophy is in line with what agencies like Senior Services of Northern Kentucky have been promoting for some time, said Millie Little, the agency's urban network team leader.

        “Our focus is on providing services and care that allow people to stay in their homes as long as possible,” Ms. Little said.

        “I would love to see more places like the Baptist Towers, that provide a range of services and allow opportunities for socialization.”

        As today's middle-aged Baby Boomers near retirement age, the demand for more creative housing options will only increase, aging experts say.

        In Kentucky, U.S. Census figures project a steady increase for residents 65 and older through 2015. In 1995, the Commonwealth had 487,000 senior citizens, according to census figures. Kentucky's senior population is expected to reach 538,000 in 2005 and 686,000 in 2015.

        Ohio also is expected to show similar growth in seniors.

        The St. John's Nursing Home was closed after a state investigation led to it losing federal certification and state Medicaid residents.

        The newly refurbished high rise will reopen April 1 with new plumbing and electrical wiring. Windows have been added or enlarged throughout the building to offer more nat ural lighting, Mr. Parker said.

        So far, without any marketing, Baptist Towers has a waiting list of about 300 people, Mr. Parker said. Model rooms won't be ready for touring for another couple of weeks.

        Healthy demand is typical of such establishments, Ms. Little explained.

        As people age, many seniors look for living arrangements where they won't have to worry about yard work, or the upkeep of a home. Later, they will enjoy the convenience and proximity of on-site rehabilitative or personal care services, which allow them to stay healthier longer and maintain their independence.

        The efficiencies and one-bedroom apartments will be on floors four through seven. They will range from 550 square feet to 625 square feet.

        The third floor will mix assisted-living and personal-care units, while the second floor will include a community dining room, chapel, board room, and space for bingo, Jazzercise and other activities.

        On the main floor will be adult day care for families needing temporary breaks from caring for older relatives. For more information, call the Baptist association at (606) 581-1938.

        The Northern Kentucky Baptist Association serves Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties. Senior Services of Northern Kentucky assists seniors in eight counties.


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