MOORHEAD - Roger Erickson says his Farmstead Living retirement community finally has all the pieces it needs to help people grow old gracefully.
Farmstead Villa, with its 33 one- and two-bedroom apartments designed for people looking for a mix of independent living and added care services, opened in September.
Erickson, the president and owner of Farmstead Living, says his private, for-profit care campus, centered at 3200 28th St. S., now offers a full spectrum of care for residents in its three buildings, from independent living in the original Farmstead Estates building, to more advanced assisted living care in the Farmstead Care building.
“Now, with the three buildings on campus, we can truly offer a continuum of care. They can move in at 55, and they can stay here to end of life,” Erickson said Tuesday, Nov. 5.
Farmstead Living, which sits on what had been a small farmstead in south Moorhead, started a decade ago with the construction of the 48 apartments in Farmstead Estates.
In 2015, Farmstead Care was opened to provide assisted living services, including advanced health care services, behavioral, dementia and memory care services, and end-of-life hospice care. That facility which averages 55 to 60 residents, also has large common areas, a therapy kitchen and music and light exercise areas, Erickson said.
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The three-story Farmstead Villa has a heated garage, a salon and exercise room, and a Main Street grill area, giving residents more food options, Erickson said.
“If someone comes to live with us, they tend to stay with us,” because of the range of services available, he said. “This becomes your home.”
Erickson said he now has $30 million invested in the campus, which can provide living spaces for 225 people between its three buildings.
There’s been “pretty rapid expansion” in the last five years, Erickson added, with staff rising from a relative handful to about 100 people.
Erickson said it’s now time to take a breath and take stock.
“We’re just going to take a little break here from expansion,” he said.
The 63-year-old Moorhead resident said Farmstead Care helps specializes in high-needs care, with five nurses and a full kitchen and housekeeping staff.
The staff-to-resident ratio is high “because of the fact that we take people with very high needs. That kind of became our niche, high-need residents,” he said.
Erickson’s father ran a floor-covering business, which steeped him in entrepreneurism. He later graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead with a degree in business, then spent about 10 years in the banking industry, before pursuing opportunities in the hotel and restaurant industries. That included saving and revamping the former American Legion building along the Red River and running it as the Red Bear Grill & Tavern for several years.
Erickson credits his management staff, headed by Executive Director Lisa Martin, for keeping costs down and the operation running smoothly.
“We’ve worked together in several other businesses for the last almost 20 years. Time flies,” he said.
Martin also learned about the business world early, growing up helping her family run a resort near Nevis, Minn.
“That kind of helped mold me,” she said.
She gained a degree in teaching and special education. Later, she managed the Red Bear for Erickson. When Red Bear was sold, she worked as a real estate agent for a few years, before reconnecting with Erickson to run Farmstead.
Martin said they toured a number of other facilities before beginning construction on the Farmstead Estates building, aiming to make it comfortable and homelike. The other facilities followed to meet the needs of an aging population.
“Our main focus was to keep people with us,” as they needed more care, Martin said. “We wanted to keep building so they could stay in the family.”
Thanks to the graying of America, providing care for seniors is a growth business.
According to 2017 U.S. Census projections, by 2034, adults over the age of 65 will outnumber children under the age of 18 for the first time ever. The Census estimates that there will be 77 million people over 65, compared with 76.5 million under 18. By 2060, the gap will widen considerably, with 94.7 million people expected to be 65 or older, compared with 80.1 million under the age of 18.
Minnesota Compass, an initiative led by Wilder Research, reports that in 2017, there were about 806,000 adults age 65 and older in Minnesota, making up about 15% of the population.
Two decades from now, that group is projected to top 1.3 million, and more than one out of every five Minnesotans being an older adult, including all of the Baby Boomers.
Pat Cullen, president and CEO of Care Providers of Minnesota, said Thursday, Nov. 7, that there are now about 65,000 people turning 65 every year in the state.
North Dakota Compass, based at North Dakota State University, reports that adults age 65 and over made up about 15% of the state’s population in 2018 (113,208 of 760,077). By 2025, older adults are expected to be 18% of all North Dakotans.
Shelly Peterson, president of the North Dakota Long Term Care Association, said she expects demand to rise for senior housing options that meet more complex health care needs for aging adults.
“We’ll see it pick up in the next three to five years” as the older Baby Boomers start running into health issues that come with age, Peterson said Thursday.
Erickson said he enjoys providing seniors the living options they want.
“It’s a very rewarding business, too. We’re in the people care business,” he said.
The key, both Martin and Erickson say, is finding “high caliber” staff. They’re happy with their workers, they said.
“They take ownership in the job they are doing. They give people a family or home feeling,” Martin said.
Erickson owns more land to the east of the current campus, but he’s not itching to build.
“We do have room for probably two more buildings there,” Erickson said. “But that’s not near future plans.”
At the same time, he’s not ruling it out.
“Never say never,” Erickson said.