Friendship Village Retirement Home
In 1966, a group of evangelical, interdenominational ministers and laypersons organized a nonprofit organization geared toward senior living. The team sought to build a unique, faith-oriented retirement community in Waterloo, Iowa, that could provide long-term comfort and care to the aging. In 1968, these members recruited Larry Laird to serve as the executive director of what is now Friendship Village Retirement Homes Inc. (Friendship Village).
Larry recently retired as his current title, but continues to serve Friendship Village as a consultant. Additionally, after the initial construction of Friendship Village, Larry went on to build new communities across the country.
“We developed a corporation and found a site,” Larry recounts. “We negotiated the property and assembled a team, including architects, contractors and marketing professionals. When the work was done, we stayed on as managers.”
The original location in Iowa is the only one he remains affiliated with and it is independently owned and operated. The same organization also operates nearby Rosewood Estate and Landmark Commons in Guernsey Park. The corporation owns additional property surrounding Landmark Commons with the option to develop and expand.
The life care concept
Friendship Village is a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC), providing a seamless living experience for the elderly. “On our campus, residents usually live independently in an apartment for 10 years or so,” Larry says. “They typically move to assisted-living for a year and a half after that and spend another year in nursing. Those are the steps our aging members go through.”
According to Larry, residents can virtually move from their houses once, which can provide a less stressful experience for seniors. Residents will remain in a familiar neighborhood throughout the rest of their lives, surrounded by the same people and environments.
To add further convenience for aging adults, the business offers two choices for payment. “There is a traditional fee that residents can pay upfront, which is gone; they never see that money again,” Larry continues. “After that, our residents pay a monthly fee, which is reasonably modest, for our independent living apartments. When they move to assisted-living, they won’t pay a higher rate for that. These residents continue to pay as if still they are living in the apartment. If they don’t want to do that, because they have long-term health care insurance or other finances and resources, they still pay the same monthly fee and introductory cost. When they pass away, 90 percent of that upfront fee is returned to the estate because these residents will have paid additional in assisted-living and in health care. A vast majority choose the life care option, which locks in risk. This option offers a nice lifestyle with somewhat reduced stress. Our residents may find illness in their later years, but they do not have to worry about how it is paid for.”
The original Friendship Village building is more than 40 years old, which has presented challenges. Fortunately, the company has remained ahead of the game with updates and repairs. The business recently renovated the home’s health center, adding a separate component. Prior to that, the home completed the addition of the assisted-living component.
“We are currently considering a renovation of the oldest portion of our residential building,” Larry notes. “These older buildings tend to need a lot of updating due to design obsolescence or code issues. What we are doing is no different from what anyone else is doing.”
Velda Phillips, management staff member of Friendship Village for over 40 years, has recently taken over as executive director of the business. She and the team have been involved in more upgrades to the buildings, systems and décor at the home. “We are continually upgrading our facilities,” she explains. “We spend around $1 million every year on capital expenditures. That includes what we will spend on a new roof, parking spaces and renovating living spaces.”
Velda goes on to note that some of the older apartments are smaller. “We are combining the spaces to customize larger apartments,” she continues. “We work with the people who will be living there to suit their needs, designing and renovating the apartments to their specifications. We have also just added a new call system, added new telephone system, upgraded the electrical in the original building to bring it up to-date. We have also replaced boilers, heating and cooling systems in our Phase III building to offer better utilities to the new individual units. Each apartment dweller has control over the residence’s heat and cooling.”
While the community is constantly in a state of improvement, Velda says the company has no major plans for expansion in the near future. Open land in Guernsey Park will allow the business to expand when the market demands it, but for now, the current facilities meet the needs of residents. More important than the physical aspect of the high-quality facilities, Velda explains, is the experience residents have in the community. “We are always thinking of the resident, the family and their perspective,” she explains. “We want to provide the facility and experience that is best for them. We want living here to be convenient and pleasant.” With a strong sense of integrity and community, Friendship Village Retirement Home offers personalized service for aging adults.
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