FARGO — What do today's seniors want?

According to Anne-Marie Fitz, executive director of Touchmark at Harwood Groves, it's good food and good company.

Those desires are behind a refurbishment project recently launched by the full-service retirement community that opened at 1200 Harwood Drive S. in 1998.

The project will include rebuilding approximately 46,000 square feet of common interior spaces with new lighting, door hardware, flooring, finishes, furniture and artwork.

It will also involve rebuilding some areas to make room for a new bar that will function as a coffee bar by day and a full-service wine, beer and mixed-drink lounge in the evening.

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The bar, which has not yet been named, will be fully staffed. The food menu will include made-to-order appetizers and a handful of dinner options.

"It will be a place where our chefs get to be creative and change out the menu as often they want and try new things. It's exciting," Fitz said.

Fitz said the project is in alignment with Touchmark's mission.

"We're in the business of enriching lives. That's our mission. It's more than just providing entertainment. It's creating spaces they can be together," Fitz said.

Demolition continues Wednesday, April 28, 2021, at Touchmark at Harwood Groves, 1200 Harwood Dr. S., Fargo, as part of a large refurbishment project to be completed next year.
Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Demolition continues Wednesday, April 28, 2021, at Touchmark at Harwood Groves, 1200 Harwood Dr. S., Fargo, as part of a large refurbishment project to be completed next year. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

While programs and events are held throughout Touchmark, Fitz said the hub tends to be the foyer and main area.

"We like that. We like that it's bustling and busy. This is just going to kind of enhance and give us some more opportunities for that," Fitz added.

Building Services Director C.J. Sahr likens the new layout to that of a modern hotel.

"If you go into a newer style motel these days, you walk in and you have the bar area and that's where you eat breakfast, but it's also where you have entertainment in the evenings. It's that same vibrant kind of feel," he said. "We want activity. That's what we're about. We're an active living community."

The project will also involve relocating the library and establishing some smaller meeting rooms for staff and residents. The dining areas and health and fitness center will also get facelifts.

An existing dining room is seen Wednesday, April 28, 2021, at Touchmark at Harwood Groves, 1200 Harwood Dr. S., Fargo. The facility has begun a large refurbishment project to be completed next year. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
An existing dining room is seen Wednesday, April 28, 2021, at Touchmark at Harwood Groves, 1200 Harwood Dr. S., Fargo. The facility has begun a large refurbishment project to be completed next year. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Fitz declined to share an estimated cost for the project that is expected to be completed in 2022.

'We work in their home'

While Fitz acknowledged some put off moving into a senior living community during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, Touchmark occupancy rates remained strong at 88-91%.

She said the Touchmark team implemented every possible precaution to ensure the health of residents and staff. They also came up with some creative ways to keep seniors active and connected.

The life enrichment team organized things like hallway happy hours, remote bingo games and a daily newsletter of stories, trivia and jokes from residents and things like recipes from the kitchen staff.

While Fitz understood seniors' concerns about the coronavirus, she said isolating alone at home can also have harmful effects.

"Now that families are getting together because of vaccination rates — of course we always wish they were higher — but we're seeing what a year of isolation does to anybody, especially the older adult population. It can just be so dramatic the decline you can see within a year," Fitz said.

She said Touchmark staff has always done their best to fill in for family when needed.

"We never forget that we work in their home. We really try to hold true to that," Sahr added.

Sahr was pleased to see that sentiment extend to Roers, the builder in charge of the renovation.

He said the residents enjoy interacting with the construction team.

"It's fun to see this outside company come in and our residents just kind of take them in and make them a part of our community. That's been the fun part. There's been a little bit of razzing each other, too," he said.

A dining room is gutted Wednesday, April 28, 2021, at Touchmark at Harwood Groves, 1200 Harwood Dr. S., Fargo, in preparation for a large remodeling project to be completed next year. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
A dining room is gutted Wednesday, April 28, 2021, at Touchmark at Harwood Groves, 1200 Harwood Dr. S., Fargo, in preparation for a large remodeling project to be completed next year. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

His favorite story thus far involved a temporary wall that has been erected in the lobby.

Sahr said Roers Superintendent Devin Odenbach recently text him to say, "It would be really cool if the residents could do something with that wall. Sign it or do a mural or something like that."

"It was so funny because we had just talked with life enrichment a day and a half ago about the exact same thing," Sahr said. "I was shocked he came up with that. It was awesome."

A full-service retirement community, Touchmark at Harwood Groves offers a wide range of homes, lifestyle options and services, including an on-site health and fitness club featuring an indoor pool and spa, certified fitness professionals, personal training, group classes and a variety of equipment. To learn more, visit www.touchmark.com.