By Keith Knepp
Quietly nestled in a historic former school building in downtown Nappanee lies one of the town’s greatest resources, the Elder Haus Senior Center. Located at 451 N. Main St., Elder Haus provides a variety of resources to the city’s senior residents.
“We are an organization that provides more than just lunch, games and trips,” said Director Kim Howenstine. “We plan with a purpose, not only to encourage socialization but to also create experiences that provide opportunities and education that strengthen brain/cognitive activities and promote fine/gross motor skills that help seniors live independently as long as possible.”
Howenstine noted Elder Haus also invites representatives from outside organizations to provide education and support for things such as Medicaid/Medicare, planning for important health care decisions, advanced directives such as estate planning and living wills, and other subjects. important to seniors.
“One of our main goals is to encourage close-knit relationships with those in our community who are 55 years and over who need or want companionship,” she said. “Some of our seniors have family who live far away or are no longer living. By providing a home-like atmosphere, it allows people to feel right at home. Sometimes life is not always sweet like a bowl of cherries, so to surround ourselves with others is good for the soul. At Elder Haus, we’ve been know to laugh and cry together and share in one another’s joys and sorrows.”
Additionally, Elder Haus now has three vans to transport residents to the store, doctor’s appointments and other trips inside the city limits.
“Our transportation service meets the needs of those who live within the city limits who are no longer able to drive or have limited mobility and require the use of a lift,” Howenstine said. “The bus will transport seniors to doctor appointments, pharmacies, grocery stores, banks, etc. Our transportation services are available from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. We ask that people call 24-48 hours in advance to schedule rides.”
Elder Haus has two 12-passenger buses, as well as a newly acquired passenger van that was purchased using a state grant. All can accommodate wheelchairs, although the new van only has a ramp and not a lift. They employ two part-time drivers to ferry the passengers around town. Donna Martin drives the bus for field trips and also serves as the part-time crafts director.
There are a multitude of activities that take place at Elder House throughout the year, including neighborhood walks, Bingo, table games, puzzles, crafts, card making, euchre tournaments, Wii games, movies, Bible study, exercise sessions, lunches, field trips, birthday parties, shopping trips and other field trips such as a recent run to a local ice cream shop. This summer, a group attended an Elkhart County Miracle baseball game played at nearby NorthWood High School.
Since it is funded through taxpayer dollars, most of the activities Elder Haus provides are free. One exception is the weekly lunch on Wednesdays, and occasionally on other days, which usually costs $5-6 to cover expenses.
“We have everyday regulars,” said Assistant Director Tammy Rock. “Our mailing list includes around 200 people, but not everyone is active.”
This past spring, Elder Haus sponsored a senior prom at a local banquet hall. Attendees had the chance to enjoy a catered dinner and dancing with friends and spouses. They plan to do it again next spring, as it was very well received.
“It truly feels like a family here,” said Howenstine. “We are a community within an community.”
CALLING TRUMP —
SWEET TREAT — Bob Anderson enjoys ice cream outside the front door of Elder Haus. Photo provided by Elder Haus.