Birkwood shurks traditional image of senior living

Future residents get tour of $8 million expansion at former The Madison


FORT MADISON – Birkwood Village is resetting the bar on what senior assisted living looks like.
A recent tour of the new construction at The Madison was unveiled to some future tenants on Friday and the conversations around the facility were excitable, to say the least.
Brenda Graham, the Community Relations Manager for the new facility, greeted visitors and then treated them to grilled lunch.
After Graham delivered a welcome presentation to the future residents, she asked if any of them had any questions.
"When can we move in?!,” one resident asked with anticipation.
Graham told the group that if everything goes according to plan and the facility passes inspections, residents could move in as early as late November or early December.
The $8 million expansion on Fort Madison’s west side has been underway since July of 2022. Construction crews cleared hallways to allow for the future residents who were invited out for a sneak peak of the facility.
Renee Hudnut, the newly appointed assisted living director, said independent assisted living and memory care units are part of the new construction.
The new facility has 24 assisted and independent living apartments and 12 memory care units.
The facility is designed with salon facilities on site as well as a bistro and open seating areas for families to come visit.
Graham said it’s not uncommon to see senior living centers have happy hour type events, but nothing to this level.
“We're just making it more of an easier space to us. There is more appointed space for those type of events,” she said.
“My background in assisted living has been with rooms that are smaller and windows are smaller. But this is more open and, with memory care, the more open spaces you have for those with those types of issues, the better. Doors can be very confusing to someone with dementia.”
She said they are in a sweet spot with a new building and with everything being thoughtfully designed for memory care and keeping people as  independent as possible.
She said a few apartments have a stove and an oven, in addition to the laundry facilities in each room.
She said the memory care section is also designed with additional lighting to help with what Hudnut called “sundown-ing” which is the time of day when people suffering from dementia get a bit more agitated.
Hudnut said Birkwood staff has done a great job of staying in touch with those that have made deposits on apartments.  There are 21 of the 36 units already claimed with deposits made by founding tenants.
Graham tries to meet with the group monthly to create some familiarity and for some socialization among the future tenants.
Schickedanz Construction is the manager of the project and Mark Holtkamp, originally from Lee County, is the owner of the facility.
Graham said there is a better sense of care in the facility, but also more than just care.
“It’s much more of a social model community than what I think senior living started out to be. In some ways, we’re very similar to other senior facilities. But some of our amenities are really focused on the socialization factor. Through COVID-19, seniors have become very lonely and isolated. It’s been very slow to see the resurgence,” Graham said.
“We have a group of people who are super excited to be a part of this. It’s remarkable. This is a little different for me, because these are people who want to be a part of this new facility.”
Graham said within the next couple of weeks, she wants to hold some private tours for those who may be interested in one of the remaining apartments. She also wants to hold a tour for emergency responders and city officials with a larger grand opening celebration after residents have moved in.

Fort Madison, Birkwood Village, Memory Care, The Madison, assisted living, independent, news, features, Pen City Current, Brenda Graham


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