Senior living offers the quality of life that older people are looking for


For Carol Dittberner, home is where the heart beats. Here she can spend an afternoon covering a wall with photos of her family and friends and reflecting on the happy years she shared with her husband Dave. “We just celebrated our 65th wedding anniversary,” she said. “He’s up in heaven, I’m here. And I took care of him for five years before he died.”

After losing him, their lakeside home in Leaf Valley began to feel lonely. They had built a life together since they were college sweethearts. “Then I was left alone, and I’ve never been alone,” she said. “I’ve always had brothers and sisters around me, or children and a husband. And so you are suddenly all alone and have one more life to go.”

She’d also seen neighbors go to other places like Arizona or Florida, but she liked her life in Minnesota. “I wanted to stay here because my grandkids play sports and stuff,” she said.

Three years ago she decided to try a senior living community and moved to Grand Arbor by Knute Nelson. “I love it here. It’s a lot better than I imagined it would be,” she said. Within a year she had sold her house and hadn’t looked back since.

“It’s such a blessing to me”

She feels completely at home in Grand Arbor and, at 86, has everything she needs to live well and focus on what matters most to her. “I write stories about Dave and myself and our family and I just enjoy it. I’m enjoying life,” she said.

Knute Nelson residents find time to enjoy new connections and experiences.

Now she has time to attend classes at the hotel’s wellness center and meet up with friends instead of running a house of her own. “It’s so wonderful to think that I don’t have to go out and mow the lawn or get my mail, which was quite a drive down our driveway, and I don’t have to go into town to buy groceries,” she said. “Everything is taken care of here and that is a real blessing for me.”

Impressively, she attends six wellness classes a week and does exercises in her apartment. She’s even started working out with a trainer to build her strength. “I learned all kinds of exercises, and I learned how to do seven machines, and my back doesn’t hurt anymore,” she said. When her coach asked her how much longer she wanted to continue, she said, “As long as I can, forever.”

She credits these activities with keeping her mentally, emotionally, and physically fit because living a life of joy is her top priority.

Enjoy the best of life

Another benefit she has found in senior living is flexibility. She lives independently but is able to get help when she needs it and has found the staff to be wonderfully kind and helpful. On days when she feels like cooking she can, but many days she would rather settle down to a deliciously prepared meal at the restaurant. “We have very, very good food here at the Pioneer Grill and Bistro,” she said.

Knute Nelson residents are part of a close-knit community with plenty to see and do.

Her life is also filled with friends and social activities. “The residents are just great. I have found many friends. We have little get togethers and just fun things to do,” she said. “Every morning (at breakfast) you sit with someone else or maybe even with the same people and you get to talk to people, just like in the neighborhood or in a restaurant.”

plans for the future

She is calm and so is her family. “I’m so thankful that my family likes it. I think that’s very important,” she said. “They feel like I’m safe here and that I’m having a good time and that it meets all my needs and they love to come visit.”

Looking ahead, she is reassured to know that Knute Nelson provides a continuum of care with assisted living and memory nurturing. “When I moved here, I didn’t realize that I would have this wonderful continuum of ministry, but after volunteering in memory care and assisted living, I’ve realized things can change, and maybe one day I’ll be in one of those places too, or both.” It’s a possibility that doesn’t scare her, because she’s seen firsthand that the quality of care is excellent.

“I feel really good just knowing that my life remains in God’s hands and He provided all of that here in Grand Arbor,” she said. “I really don’t have any worries, just responsibility for every day of life, and I can handle that and whatever comes in the future, comes, and I’m not worried at all.”

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