By Amy Talcott
Our lives are rooted in community. Our towns. Our neighborhoods. Our workplaces. Our friend circles. Our families. Community gives us a sense of belonging—people to laugh with, to do things with, to talk to.
For many as they age, they find their communities becoming smaller. Mobility issues may hamper their abilities and desires to travel or drive. In retirement, they may lose touch with work acquaintances. They may find themselves widowed and having fewer friends than they used to. They may not even realize how much their world is shrinking and think of it more as just a rite of passage. But it doesn’t have to be.
What if you could expand your community as you age—and live the life you want to live? What if you could still live independently and get together with friends and family for a game of cards, a shopping trip or a baseball game? What if you could go for walks and exercise without the worry of falling or being alone? Westminster Village is the community you’re looking for.
Situated on a 40+ acre campus filled with beautiful landscaping and mature trees, Westminster Village is a continuing care retirement community that helps residents live the life they want to live by managing day-to-day tasks like meal preparation, housekeeping, home maintenance, and transportation, giving them more time for the things they enjoy. A Bloomington/Normal landmark for 43 years, Westminster offers a variety of living options including independent living duplexes and apartments, assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing care.
Opened in 1979 by the Presbytery of Northern Indiana, Westminster became a locally owned and operated not-for-profit in 1981, governed by a Board of Directors comprised of local community members and business leaders. CEO Barb Nathan says this unique dynamic means the organization is shepherded by the local community. “Members of our board are volunteers who bring a wide range of talent and expertise to the table,” she said. “From an attorney to a professor of nursing to an actuary to a human resources professional and more—they all help us make the right decisions to keep our future bright for the long term.”
A major decision to expand their campus in 2017 stemmed from one of Westminster’s strategic initiatives: to serve more. “At one point, the waitlist for independent living was more than two years, and at times there was a wait list for our own residents if they needed to move to a different level of care,” Barb explained. “Most people come to us for independent living, and we are able to offer them what they need to live the rest of their lives,” she said. “We weren’t able to fulfill that completely, so we knew it was time to expand.”
Not only did they expand, but they renovated and updated nearly every inch of the facility over a span of five years, from 2017 until 2021. “First, we built a new skilled nursing care building and added 48 new private rooms, then went back and renovated what was the existing skilled nursing area to the same standard,” Barb said. “We now have 80 private rooms and eight semi-private rooms at Martin Health Center.”
Barb credits the organization for making the right decisions despite the complexities they entailed. “We needed new assisted living and memory care facilities as well, and decided the best location for them would be where the current entrance was, which meant constructing a new entrance,” she said. “Sure, we could have built them elsewhere on our campus, but it would have created a longer walk for our residents, which we knew would be less convenient.”
“It was a jigsaw puzzle for sure, since everything was done in phases,” she added. “But we tried to minimize the inconvenience to our residents, with the end goal of making their lives easier and their community more extensive and enjoyable.”
Something for Everyone
In addition to new construction and renovations, Westminster also boasts a new state-of-the-art fitness/wellness center, library, art room, and updated common areas. “Our club room is a popular place to gather for anything from a baseball kickoff party to a movie, spiritual program, or educational session,” said Barb. Another feature is their new medical clinic, where residents can see a variety of medical doctors and nurse practitioners and get lab work done on-site. “When you’re not feeling well, you don’t want to go out, and you may be more likely to put off seeing a doctor. With our on-site medical clinic, it makes it easy, and residents can be more proactive with their health.”
The response to all the upgrades from residents has been positive, Barb says. “We joke that our standard is, ‘It’s just lovely,’ because that’s what so many of our residents say. And really, everything we’ve done has been to help people live the life they want to live regardless of where they are in the continuum of care.”
“We’re frankly amazed,” said residents Dick and Charline Watts. “Even as the pandemic raged, Westminster Village completed major renovations in both the health center and independent living areas, and built a beautiful new assisted living facility. But most amazing is that through the whole process, the focus on the residents and our needs never wavered.”
With the new assisted living and memory care facility and expanded skilled nursing care, Westminster is able to welcome more residents. “We’ve increased our independent living community by 25 percent. And with that expansion comes a varied set of interests, so it’s not one size fits all—there is something for everyone here.”
That “something for everyone” mantra is based, in part, on the seven dimensions of wellness: physical, mental, social, educational, vocational, environmental, and spiritual, all of which are important dimensions of life no matter what your age, said Barb.
“As you get older, whether you are living alone or as a couple, the reality is, your world gets smaller,” she explained. “You may not go out as much as you used to. You may not like driving at night, or at all. You may not want to exercise for fear of falling. You may not want to cook meals for just one or two people. Your friends circle may be diminishing. And while families help with that a great deal, the fact remains. But people who have moved into Westminster find that their entire world has opened up to them again! They’ve lost the stressors of taking care of a home, or doing the laundry, or finding transportation. They gain the ability to go where they want, when they want, safely. They can participate in activities with both large and small groups as they wish.”
Residents are encouraged to stay active with a fitness center that’s open 24/7, a variety of exercise classes and even a balance room, “Because, as we say here, ‘Staying upright is a good idea!’” she joked. Their 42-acre property boasts a park with walking paths, 31 gardens, shuffleboard, a putting green, horseshoes, and a fountain.
Resident David Kraft moved to Westminster four years ago. “I was still in good health but found living alone to be sort of lonely,” he said. “I told everyone I wanted to move here before the kids had to put me somewhere. The management is top-rated, the meals are outstanding, and the people are so friendly.”
An Impressive Reputation
As a 40-year fixture in Bloomington/Normal, Westminster is well-known to residents of the area. “So many people know individuals who have lived here or currently live here, and in many cases we are on our second generation of residents. And just like our residents are a part of the Westminster community, Westminster is very much a part of the Bloomington/Normal community.”
In addition to their reputation for being a great place to live, Westminster is also known for being a great place to work. “We have about 290 amazing team members,” said Barb. “And they are all part of the Westminster mission.” Because of their solid reputation, Barb says they have not had to use an outside agency to provide staffing in over four years. “We have a team member here who heard about us because she was an Uber driver who brought one of our housekeepers to work every day,” said Barb, “The driver said, ‘Well, if you like it so much, maybe I need to work there!’ and is now in dining services here.” In fact, Barb says more than 50 percent of their team who have been hired in the past six months have come from recommendations and referrals.
All in all, Barb says that the atmosphere at Westminster Village is one of life being lived. “If you walked through our dining room right now and took a poll, I think at least 90 percent of our residents would say that they wished they had come here earlier. I think it’s important for people to think about where they would like to see themselves as they get older, and if it’s in a community environment, to explore that before it’s a decision that must be made based on circumstances. A community such as Westminster can be a great way to open your life to new experiences and new friendships.”
David, echoing many residents’ sentiments, said simply, “I love my home.”
Westminster Village is located at 2025 East Lincoln Street in Bloomington. For more information, call 309-663-6474, email email@example.com, or visit www.westminstervillageinc.com.