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Victory Centre Seniors “ON-THE-GO” Art Exhibit Is Rolling Through The South Suburbs On Their Bus

South suburban Victory Centre seniors armed with paintbrushes and some inspiration from a modern day abstract artist, painted a colorful mural to add “bling” and personality to the sides of the bus that transports them.


Artist from Victory Centre communities in Country Club Hills, Park Forest, Joliet and River Oaks put their personal stamp on the bus by creating custom-artwork for the sides and back of the bus that sends a positive message to others about the type of active and creative older adults who live in their towns. 
“Not only did the residents enjoy getting together to paint the banner and create art for a purpose, but now they are proud to ride around town in a bus that showcases their artwork for all to see!” says Nicole Bartecki, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Pathway Senior Living, owner and operator of the Victory Centre supportive living communities.  

 For the bus’s design, the seniors mimicked the work of modern abstract painter Chris Johanson. Inspired by his color field technique, they used all of the primary colors to create a vibrant, eye-catching abstract banner. The senior artists can be seen in a photo on the back of the bus. The bus art project stems from Victory Centre communities’ signature ArtPath program, which provides regular and ongoing opportunities for beginning and experienced artists-at-heart to express themselves in meaningful ways through various art modalities.   

Older Rescue Dog Gets a “New Lease on Life”: Labrador Retires with Victory Centre of Vernon Hills Seniors

Teddy, an 11-year-old Labrador mix, moved to Victory Centre of Vernon Hills, a supportive living community for seniors, in August and is adjusting well. Victory Centre residents and staff adopted Teddy from Fortunate Pooches and Lab Rescue.


 Pathway Senior Living, the owner and operator of Victory Centre of Vernon Hills and other senior living communities, encourages dog adoptions because pets create a home-like environment and bring many health benefits to their people. Dozens of older dogs throughout Chicago and the suburbs have “retired” in comfort thanks to Pathway’s See Spot Retire program, which offers older dogs like Teddy new chances at life with seniors who get to share the benefits of pet ownership.

When adopting shelter dogs, many people often overlook the older pooches in favor of puppies. Not so for the seniors at Victory Centre of Vernon Hills who find that Teddy, the older, more mature dog, is a perfect match for their retirement lifestyle. Teddy was the first dog they met, and they picked him on the spot.  

“We all knew he was the perfect dog for our community right away,” said Mirka Biegunska, Community Life Manager.  “He loves the residents, and they love him!” Although they thought Teddy was about 7 years old, a veterinarian told them he’s closer to 11! Now residents give Teddy a naptime break each afternoon, so he can keep up with them.


Not as Old As I Thought I Was

Georgia Hansen remembers camping when she was 10 as a Campfire Girl, but that's a long time ago.


She is 85 now and living at Oak Hill Supportive Living Community on Rollins Road in Round Lake Beach.

Pathway Senior Living, which manages Oak Hill, takes elderly campers to Sunrise Lake Campground in suburban Bartlett. On Aug. 19, the organization took about 30 seniors from around the Chicago area to the campground, including Hansen and Ron Jaworski, 78, another Oak Hill resident.

It's part of Pathway's Camp Viva! program.

"Camp Viva! challenges the way we think about aging," Pathway's Lynn Bunnell said in a news release.

If that was the goal, it appeared to have worked for Hansen, a Chicago native. She said she wasn't sure whether she could handle camping again, noting she is hard of hearing and legally blind.

"I found out I'm not as old as I thought I was," she said.

She and the campers stayed overnight, sleeping on cots.

"I found the cot comfortable," Hansen said. "I had a heck of a time getting out of it. Getting in it was no problem."

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Pathway Senior Living Earns an ALFA “Best of the Best” Award for Innovative Care Partnerships that Keep Seniors Well

Pathway Senior Living’s VIVA! Plus coordinated care model has earned a 2014 “Best of the Best” Award from the Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA).


Pathway Senior Living’s VIVA! Plus coordinated care model has earned a 2014 “Best of the Best” Award from the Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) for its network of select preferred providers who serve as an extension of Pathway’s residential care team to provide truly synchronized care that means better care for residents. This national award honors programs that are advancing business excellence in the senior living field.
 “With VIVA! Plus we are able to offer a seamless, coordinated care model focused on wellness and keeping our residents well, and having access to care in their homes and really minimizing opportunities to leave that home for the hospital,” said Maria Oliva, Pathway’s Chief People Officer, who received the honor at the ALFA 2014 Conference held in Phoenix, Arizona, from ALFA CEO Rick Grimes. 

VIVA! Plus connects Pathway residents to trusted providers such as physicians, skilled nursing providers, therapists, social service professionals, psychiatric nurses, pharmacists and hospice care providers. Each partner is committed to taking a team approach. Since VIVA! Plus began, residents are more likely to make and keep appointments. There is less opportunity for missed diagnoses or confusion about care plans, and medication management is more effective, Oliva said.  In 2013, Pathway reported a 33 percent decrease in 30-day hospital readmissions and an 8 percent decrease in the number of hospitalizations. Pathway also saw a 7 percent decrease in falls and a 4 percent decrease in falls resulting in injuries.

Program submissions were judged for their uniqueness in the industry, innovative use of ideas from outside the industry,  impact on residents, their families, staff and operations,  embrace of industry core principles, the strength of quantitative and qualitative results and strategic vision. 


About Pathway Senior Living

Website: www.PathwaySL.com


Pathway Senior Living is a privately held, Chicago-based senior living company managed by an experienced team that is dedicated to improving the lives of older adults. The innovative, award-winning company develops, owns, operates, and/or manages market-rate and mixed-income independent living and assisted living communities in the Midwest. 


About the Assisted Living Federation of America

Website: www.alfa.org


The Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) is the largest national association exclusively dedicated to professionally-managed, resident-centered senior living communities and the seniors and families they serve. Since 1990, ALFA has advocated for choice, accessibility, independence, dignity and quality of life for all seniors. ALFA’s programs promote business and operational excellence through education, research, publications, professional networking and online tools designed to foster innovation and entrepreneurism in the field of senior living. 

Older Rescue Dog Gets a “New Lease on Life”

Adopting a “rescue dog” from the local animal shelter is a popular choice for many...


Adopting a “rescue dog” from the local animal shelter is a popular choice for many families, many of whom tend to overlook older pooches in favor of younger shelter puppies.  Not so for the 94 seniors at Oak Hill Supportive Living in Round Lake Beach who find that the older, more mature dogs, are the perfect match for their retirement lifestyle.

The senior residents and staff at Oak Hill Supportive Living Community in Round Lake Beach, IL, recently found their perfect canine companion when they adopted 4-year-old Labrador mix, Nitra, as part of the community’s “See Spot Retire” adopt-a-pet program. After interviewing several doggie candidates, the residents and staff chose Nitra because of her sweet and gentle disposition. Potty trained and past her puppy-chewing stage, Nitra is not a jumper or barker. These qualities make her an excellent fit for the senior supportive living community, where some residents have challenges with mobility, eyesight and hearing.

“I just know we’re going to be best friends!” said Oak Hill resident Louise Jankowiak, a lifelong dog owner who can no longer care for her own pet.

Dozens of older dogs throughout Chicago and the suburbs have “retired” in comfort over the past four years thanks to the signature See Spot Retire program created by Pathway Senior Living, the operator of Oak Hill Supportive Living Community and many other Chicagoland senior living communities. See Spot Retire offers older dogs new lives and affords residents meaningful relationships and unconditional affection. In these win-win adoptions, the dogs, like many of the senior residents, now have a new lease on life, and senior residents can enjoy the benefits of pet ownership without shouldering the responsibility and cost of caring for a dog.

The many known benefits of pet relationships include: better mood, lower blood pressure, relaxation, stress relief, less pain, more activity, increased communication and more opportunities for touch and contact. All of these benefits can lead to better physical and mental health. Plus, with Nitra around the community feels more like “home” for the residents, staff and visitors.

“Dogs are like therapy. You can talk to them, tell them your problems and cuddle with them. They give you unconditional love. They really are like best friends,” Jankowiak said. She is one of the many residents who enjoy interacting with Nitra daily. For now Nitra is learning the ropes of senior living and is staying in the administrative office, but she will soon have full range of the community (except the dining room at meal times!) and even get to stay in residents’ apartments.

Nitra’s sister, Nala, also found her forever home with Oak Hill’s Resident Care Manager, Freda Knorr, who found both dogs irresistible.

Oak Hill’s “Green” Efforts Receive National Recognition

Oak Hill Supportive Living Community in Round Lake Beach, IL, was one of only two...


Oak Hill Supportive Living Community in Round Lake Beach, IL, was one of only two senior communities in the nation to be recognized by the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA) for being “green.”

Oak Hill received an honorable mention in the 2013 ICAA Innovators Green Award category for its green construction and livable community. A leader in green building for senior living, Oak Hill was the first Assisted Living community in the United States to meet ICC 700 National Green Building Standard™ criteria and earn “Gold” Certification from the National Association of Home Builders and the International Code Council.

The green building materials and practices used in the construction of Oak Hill provide a more comfortable, healthier living experience for its residents who are senior citizens as well as a positive environmental legacy for future generations.

Southland Seniors Delight in Afternoon at Lyric Opera

Seniors from Calumet City’s Victory Centre of River Oaks enjoyed a sneak peek of...


Seniors from Calumet City’s Victory Centre of River Oaks enjoyed a sneak peek of the heartbreaking tragedy, “Madama Butterfly,” as guests of the Lyric Opera. The complimentary performance was thanks to an annual Lyric community engagement program that invites underserved Chicago area seniors to attend a dress rehearsal. 

“There’s nothing that we of Lyric enjoy more than welcoming seniors into our opera house. And having them experience Puccini’s ‘Madama Butterfly’ with an all-star cast only heightens our satisfaction. For Lyric and for the Victory Centre seniors, Friday’s dress rehearsal was a very memorable event,” said Jack Zimmerman. Subscriber Relations Manager, Lyric Opera of Chicago.

From life-long opera aficionados to first timers, the thirteen Victory Centre seniors studied the Lyric’s online Madama Butterfly audio commentary and hopped a Victory Centre bus for their afternoon at the opera.

“I’m delighted to get the chance to go to the opera again,” says Victory Centre resident Ruth Buckner, 78, a retired licensed private duty nurse, who many years ago regularly escorted a former client to the opera.

Singing has always been a passion for one Victory Centre resident Irma Coleman who studied voice at Chicago’s Musical College back in the 1940s. She did not pursue a musical career, but listening to opera music became her favorite pastime. “I love the stories and the music,” she says.

At 70, Eddie Bailey, one of six seniors who will experience the opera for the first time, is looking forward to expanding his horizons. He jokes saying, “I’m such a good singer, I expected that they’d probably invite me to go up on stage!” 

“Older adults can gain many wonderful benefits from pursuing new experiences and reliving old ones,” said Joy Shields, Victory Centre of River Oaks Executive Director. “Thanks to Lyric Opera’s initiative, we’re delighted to be able to facilitate this experience for our residents.” 

Victory Centre of River Oaks, located at 1370 Ring Road, Calumet City, IL, is a Pathway Senior Living Supportive Living community that provides assistance for area seniors by offering quality residential accommodations, amenities, life-enrichment programs and support services at affordable prices.

Oak Hill Supportive Living Community Celebrates 1st Anniversary

One year after the hard work of constructing, landscaping, and decorating the new...


One year after the hard work of constructing, landscaping, and decorating the new Oak Hill Supportive Living Community at 76 East Rollins Road in Round Lake Beach, IL, it was time to celebrate. And that’s exactly what the more than 250 attendees, including residents, their families, staff, dignitaries, development team members, and owners did on Tuesday, September 10, with champagne, toasts, hors d’oeuvres, awards, speeches, dinner and, of course, cake.

There was much to celebrate. In 2012, the development became the first senior housing community in the country to meet the International Code Council (ICC) 700 National Green Building Standard™ criteria and earn the “Gold” certification from the National Association of Home Buildings (NAHB) and the ICC, enabling ownership to pass on the cost savings to tenants.

In August, the Affordable Assisted Living Coalition announced the winners of its annual Photo and Testimonial Contest, awarding first prize for a photo of Oak Hill resident, June Sphen, helping Sebastian Reyes read at the ongoing program Oak Hill has with the kindergartners at the Early Education Center in Round Lake, IL.

Awards were presented to Oak Hill’s Elaine Brown, Audrey Roettiger and Lucia Mazulis whose referrals resulted in new residents. Oak Hill’s state-of-the-art theater with its twinkling-stars ceiling, comfy chairs and popcorn machine served as the venue to introduce a new promotional video illustrating life in Round Lake Beach.

Among the guests was nine-year-old Caleb Vackar, grandson of resident, the Rev. Lynn Vackar, and his father, Neil Vackar of Engleside. “We visit Oak Hill too many times to count. I like all the dinners, but my favorite is the prime rib,” said Caleb. He also likes the fact that all the activities at Oak Hill are well planned and enjoys the walking path, the game room, bingo, and the playground. In addition to their regular visits, the Vackar family also attends special events such as the anniversary party. On September 18, the family and their friends had their own special event when they celebrated Lynn’s 75th birthday at Oak Hill.

Also in attendance were Dorothy and Frank Lutchen, who have been married for 65 years. They moved into a one-bedroom apartment at Oak Hill in July. When asked why they decided to move, Frank, 91, answered, “I didn’t decide. My boys did.” According to Frank, he had lost his strength, and his wife could not take care of him. “The boys helped us a lot and would even deliver a week’s supply of sandwiches,” said Frank, a former Chicago police officer.

“I like the routine at Oak Hill the best. All the meals are on time, and I don’t have to cook. It’s also more fun to live here – lots of people to talk to,” said Dorothy, 88.

Dominick Salvato, 81, who was a dental technician for 53 years, lost his wife at Christmastime last year. “We were so happy living in our home, but when she died, it was like all heaven broke loose,” he said. “My son introduced me to Oak Hill. I moved here in August and have liked it ever since. It’s a great place to hang out. All the people here seem very happy. All of my new friends are elderly, but then, so am I, although I don’t feel like it,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.

“One of the biggest advantages to living at Oak Hill is the social life. Our goal is to make sure nobody feels lonely or left out,” said Martin F. Jablonski with Landmark Realty & Development, one of the Principals of the Oak Hill ownership entity, Round Lake Beach, L.P., along with Principals, Mark Lambert, CCIM, SIOR, CPM, President, and Craig Whitehead, CCIM, CPM, Executive Vice President, both with Hoffman Estates, IL-based The Crown Group, Inc.

“We offer a wide spectrum of programs and encourage the participation of our residents,” he said. One example is “Walk Across Illinois,” a free health and fitness program, instituted in 2012 by the State of Illinois to get people moving and improve overall health. The challenge is to walk the 167 miles across Illinois, which is equivalent to walking from the Mississippi River in Rock Island to the Lake Michigan shoreline in Chicago. “Our residents can complete the challenge right here at Oak Hill using our walking path that surrounds a beautiful native prairie. They log in the number of feet they walk online at www.WalkAcrossIllinois.org, and when they complete 167 miles, they receive a certificate of achievement from the state,” said Jablonski, who points to this and many other programs, designed to provide Oak Hill residents with experiences rather than just activities. 

View the story as it was run in the Daily Herald

Seniors Become "Wedding Planners" for New Lenox Maintenance Man

Wedding bells will soon be ringing for Pat Hensley and Dawn Morgan of New Lenox.


Wedding bells will soon be ringing for Pat Hensley and Dawn Morgan of New Lenox. On the wedding day, July 27th, Pat will head to work at Victory Centre of South Chicago, where he has been the Maintenance Manager for two and a half years. This day Pat will pay meticulous attention to the cleanliness of the grounds, as his workplace is the same place where he will marry his bride.

“I’m excited,” said Pat, who has been engaged for seven years. It is indeed the long engagement that led to his boss’s kind suggestion –or more like insistence—to once and for all set a date.

“I met Dawn at a Christmas party and knew the two made a great couple,” said Jean Alexander-Whitaker, the Executive Director at Victory Centre of South Chicago.

“Jean sat me down and said we’re setting a date today,” Pat said. “You’ve been telling me for over two years that you’re getting married, so let’s do it.” On a calendar, Jean pointed to Saturday, July 27, 2013, and it was done.

Discussing the wedding plans, Pat revealed that he didn’t have many family members left and felt like the senior residents and his co-workers were like his family now. “That really touched me,” said Jean, who added, “if you feel like we’re your family, then let’s have the wedding here.” 

A Community Affair 
Pat and Dawn gladly accepted the generous offer, and the wedding plans went into full swing. A “Guess Who’s Getting Married?” contest ran in the community’s newsletter. The residents were excited to learn it was Pat and even more delighted that he chose to have the wedding at the community. “They just couldn’t believe it,” Jean said.

Soon, the entire community caught wedding fever. The bride-to-be chose the color purple and folks ran with it. Julia Milne, Life Enrichment Manager, printed invitations on her computer and is baking and decorating the wedding cake.

Residents are busy making favors for the guests, which will be a “sweet” surprise to the bride and groom. They are chocolate molded candies in the shape of intertwined hands. Residents are lovingly wrapping them up and tying them with ribbon. Another resident has agreed to be the greeter and will be in charge of making sure all attendees sign the guest book.

The nuptials will take place at 2 p.m. in the community’s outdoor courtyard by the labyrinth, a fitting symbol of eternity for the couple. The ceremony will be officiated by Pastor Green, a local minister who says weekly prayers at Victory Centre of South Chicago and has been a spiritual support for Pat.

Together, Pat and Dawn have seven children and one grandchild. All but one, who couldn’t make it, will be standing up at the wedding with the guys in kakis and purple polo shirts and the girls in purple sundresses. With two children in college, the workplace wedding venue, is also a budget friendly option, said Pat, who is supplying beef and chicken for the party, drinks, outdoor tents and a DJ. Pat who twirls around with the residents on a regular basis wanted to make sure there would be music for dancing. 

“I’ve had a humongous wedding before, but Dawn has never been married. I want to make this memorable and special for her,” Pat said. And apparently so does Victory Centre of South Chicago’s 100 residents and Pat’s co-workers!

Victory Centre of South Chicago, a Supportive Living and Senior Apartment Community, provides an enriched and engaged lifestyle and supportive services for its older adult residents. Victory Centre of South Chicago features newer, private apartments with call systems, three meals a day, support services as needed, activities and outings and other social opportunities at an affordable monthly rate.

Oak Hill Seniors and Kindergarteners Make Great Reading Team

Chances are that when June Sphen, Lillian Ramirez and Olive Merchant went to school...


Chances are that when June Sphen, Lillian Ramirez and Olive Merchant went to school, they learned to read with the help of the McGuffey Readers, the best-known series of books in the 19th century. But today, they were among the seniors who are helping the five-year-olds from the Early Education Center in Round Lake, IL, learn to read once a month at the new Oak Hill Supportive Living Community in Round Lake Beach, IL.

The program was started by Early Education Center teacher, Lana Ryba, and Shannon Wagner, Community Life Manager at Oak Hill. “Lana and I think this is a win-win program. The kids get mentors who read to them and listen while they read, and our residents get to enjoy the company of children and feel a sense of accomplishment. Actually there is another big win — everybody has fun,” said Wagner.

Oak Hill is operated by Des Plaines, IL-based Pathways Senior Living, LLC, whose operating philosophy is called VIVA™, which means ‘Long Live!’ “VIVA is at the heart of everything we do here. In our social programs, we want our residents to have experiences rather than just activities, and helping children learn to read is a great experience,” said Wagner.

At 10:30 AM on the day of a recent reading session, 26 excited and chattering kindergarteners filed into the Community Room at Oak Hill carrying brightly colored paper flowers they had made for the seniors who were waiting for them. After a brief instruction from Ryba, they dispersed into activity groups. Some went to tables set up with crayons, colored pencils and work sheets designed to help them print words, spell words and color in line-art characters.

Others curled up on couches with their seniors, presented them with flowers and began reading. If they couldn’t read a word or pronounced it wrong, their mentors gently assisted them. When the session was over, the kids formed a line and filed out of Oak Hill, waiving goodbyes to their new friends.

Driver taking seniors on ‘World Tour’ in Round Lake Beach

In February, when Robert Oliver, took the job as a bus driver for Des Plaines-based...


In February, when Robert Oliver, took the job as a bus driver for Des Plaines-based Pathway Senior Living, LLC, he never dreamed he’d be taking residents on a world tour. But that’s exactly what he is doing once a month at the new Oak Hill Supportive Living Community in Round Lake Beach, one of the communities the company operates.

Pathway Senior Living recently instituted a program called “World Tour,” which focuses on learning about traditions, language and foods of different states and countries.

I just love working for this company, because I believe I have finally found my niche. I am doing what I do best: driving, cooking and caregiving. My mother always taught me to be compassionate and patient. Those lessons help me work with my seniors. And to tell the truth, when she died, I guess I was looking for a replacement mother. At Oak Hill, I found lots of them. Perhaps I can become a replacement son to them, too."

State program is an innovative way to meet the needs of an aging public

Needing assistance with daily living and being able to afford that assistance is a...


Needing assistance with daily living and being able to afford that assistance is a worry for some older adults. Illinoisians are lucky in this area: the state is in the forefront of providing affordable support services in a community setting through its Supportive LivingProgram, considered by many to be a model for other states.

"The purpose of the Supportive Living Program is to provide a residential setting for the elderly (age 65-plus) and persons with physical disabilities (ages 22-64) to receive support services," says Kelly Cunningham, Deputy Administrator for Programs, Division of Medical Programs, IL Department of Healthcare and Family Services. HFS is the state agency tasked with oversight of the program.

Victory Centre of Joliet, a Pathway community, was the first Supportive Living Facility in Illinois.

Pathway was formed as a partnership in 1997 of businessmen who brought expertise in the areas of business strategy, financing, development and operation, says Nicole Bartecki, vice president of Sales and Marketing, Pathway Senior Living. Today, Pathway owns and/or manages 12 SLFs in the Chicagoland area and one in Springfield. They go under the names of Victory Centre, Alexian Village, Oak Hill and Timberlake. Pathway has approximately 1,250 people living in their Illinois communities.

Bartecki says the approach at all Pathway communities is to focus on "well care" versus "sick care."

Pathway Senior Living wins ALFA 2013 Best of the Best Award

The Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) announced the winners of the ALFA...


The Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) announced the winners of the ALFA 2013 Best of the Best Awards in the May/June issue of Senior Living Executive magazine. These annual awards honor new innovations that promote resident quality of life and business excellence in the field of senior living. ALFA will recognize the winning best practices at the ALFA 2013 Conference & Expo, May 6-9 in Charlotte, N.C.

“Companies operating in the senior living space have a long tradition of sharing best practices to advance business excellence and champion quality of life for residents living in communities for seniors,” said Richard P. Grimes, president and CEO of ALFA. “This year, a trend across many nominations is a focus on offering greater meaning and purpose to programs impacting the lives of residents, their families, staff, professional resources and even society in general. ALFA is proud to spotlight this year’s winning programs in Senior Living Executive magazine.”

Honoring the Life of a Resident Following His or Her Death

Des Plaines, Ill.-based Pathway Senior Living won for its VIVA! approach to honoring the life of a resident at end of life.

Estelle Douglas “Honored Citizen” Celebrates 100th Birthday

Congratulations to Estelle Douglas who celebrated her 100th birthday at Alexian...


Congratulations to Estelle Douglas who celebrated her 100th birthday at Alexian Village. Mayor of Elk Grove Village, Craig Johnson, presented Estelle with an “Honored Citizen” certificate.
Estelle has four children, 10 grandchildren and eight great grandchildren. Born and raised in Chicago, Estelle moved to Westchester in 1915 and lived there until moving to Elk Grove Village two years ago. Before getting married, Estelle held many jobs at a shoe store, candy factory, and grocery store and as a press operator. Estelle got married in 1935 and then stayed home to care for her family. After her husband died in 1985, Estelle toured the United States with her church group. Getting to 100 is “a lot of hard work,” says Estelle, reflecting on her long and prosperous life lived thus far.

Couples renew vows on Valentine’s Day at Victory Centre in Bartlett

Victory Centre of Bartlett held a wedding vow renewal ceremony for Valentine’s...


Victory Centre of Bartlett held a wedding vow renewal ceremony for Valentine’s Day officiated by Rev. Elder Dale.

The ceremony at 3:30 p.m. Thursday was followed by love songs performed on the piano by musician John LaBourn and a slice of wedding cake for all those in attendance.

Among couples renewing their vows were Arthur and Helen Polich, who have been married 63 years; Bob and Sue Richardi, who have been married 50 years; and Frank and Linda Broz, who have been married 34 years.

Rhonda Aumann Named Executive Director at Sierra Ridge

Rhonda Aumann Named Executive Director at Victory Centre of Sierra Ridge


Rhonda Aumann Named Executive Director at Victory Centre of Sierra Ridge

Rhonda Aumann of Oak Lawn, IL, has been promoted to Executive Director at Victory Centre of Sierra Ridge, a supportive living and senior apartment community, located at 4150 W. Gatling Blvd. in Country Club Hills, owned and operated by Pathway Senior Living, LLC.

Aumann has been with Pathway Senior Living for more than five years, most recently, as executive director at Victory Centre of Galewood. Aumann will oversee Pathway’s award-winning lifestyle known as VIVA! for the more than 120 residents who call Sierra Ridge home.

“I look forward to helping those who live and work at Sierra Ridge experience meaningful and purpose-filled lives through Pathway’s VIVA! lifestyle and continuing to be a good neighbor to the Country Club Hills community,” Aumann said.

Aumann has a bachelor degree in Speech Communication from the University of Illinois and a master’s degree in Integrated Marketing Communication from Roosevelt University. She started her career working in public relations for Edelman. Although she loved her PR job, the events of 9/11 and her father’s failing health led her to a new calling, one where she could focus on her strengths as a marketer and also have an opportunity to make a meaningful difference. For the past ten years, Aumann has managed several senior living buildings and made a positive impact on the lives of hundreds of seniors and their families.

New Twist on Ancient “Gourd Fest” Proves Innovative for Award-Winning Alexian Village

New Twist on Ancient “Gourd Fest” Proves Innovative for Award-Winning Alexian Village


New Twist on Ancient “Gourd Fest” Proves Innovative for Award-Winning Alexian Village

Pathway Senior Living, LLC, headquartered in Des Plaines, IL, is the proud recipient of the 2012 International Council on Active Aging’s (ICAA) Innovator… Award for pioneering life-enrichment programming for older adults. Pathway earned the distinction for its annual fall Gourd Fest, which takes place at annual Alexian Village in Elk Grove, Illinois. Gourd Fest takes a fresh twist on the primeval, African Festival of the Gourd, turning this ancient practice into an innovative opportunity for enriching seniors’ lives.

The ICAA Industry Innovator Award distinguishes Pathway’s Gourd Fest for excellence and creativity in health, wellness and active aging, setting new standards and making a difference in the lives of older adults. Pathway’s Gourd Fest demonstrates that “innovation” doesn’t necessarily need to be “rocket science,” low-tech can be just as innovative as high-tech and “what’s old (in this case ancient!) is new.”

The Gourd Fest humbly begins with the purchase of a $1.79 seed packet. Gourd growing is dirty, yet rewarding work. To create a “Gourd Hut” (see enclosed photo), the gardeners train the vines to grow over a trellis and hand-pollinate using paint brushes laden with pollen (gathered from male flowers) to dust into the center of the female flowers as they open in the evenings. After many days, weeks and months of patiently tending to the plants, the result is a spectacular green-leafed, squash-blooming space that provides a shady spot to sit and a natural wonder of beauty to enjoy in the community’s courtyard. Alexian Village’s Gourd Hut has attracted the attention of the American Gourd Society, which featured the hut in its quarterly magazine and fully supports and participates in the annual festival.

“This unique event offers a variety of ways for seniors to participate and involves everybody at our community in one way or another,” said Andi Rothenberg, Alexian Village’s Community Life Manager, who is integral in making the Gourd Fest a reality and success.

When the gourds are harvested they provide blank canvasses for senior artisans. Transforming and elevating the gourd into works of art or utilitarian object gives the seniors a creative outlet, artistic freedom and joy of expression. They create birdhouses, jewelry, rhythm instruments, bowls, ornaments and more. The festival itself provides a fun-filled day with drummers, African storytelling, art vendors, food and a bonfire that is open to local artisans and the community at large.

“Gourd Fest is a celebration of the gourd’s oddity, beauty and multiple uses that mirrors Pathway’s progressive attitude toward and celebration of our seniors’ individuality and continued relevance in society,” said Maria Oliva, Chief People Officer for Pathway Senior Living, LLC. “By name, the fest appears to be a salute to the gourd, yet it is really a celebration of the seniors who plan, cultivate and execute the event from start to finish.”

“Like the gourd itself, the festival reinforces and promotes the belief that seniors have purpose, meaning and beauty,” said Colleen Koziara, Pathway’s Regional Life Enrichment Manager. “Gourd Fest helps meets seniors’ needs for acceptance, connection and inspiration, factors that profoundly affect quality of life.”

“Older adults today are transforming outdated concepts about aging and later life,” says Colin Milner, ICAA’s founder and CEO. “Increasingly, people realize that they don’t have to accept society’s stereotypical views of later life as a time of decline and diminished worth; they can continue to grow and learn, contribute to society, and live well and fully despite any health
challenges they may face. For many, having opportunities and support for active living and access to innovative programming like Gourd Fest can make all the difference to their quality of life.”

2012 Outstanding Caregiver Award in Senior Housing Presented to Sue Peters of Alexian Village of Elk Grove

The Illinois Department on Aging and AALC partnered together to present the 2012...


The Illinois Department on Aging and AALC partnered together to present the 2012 Outstanding Caregiver Award in Senior Housing. The annual award recognizes a direct care worker, over the age of 55, who has provided outstanding direct caregiving to seniors in Illinois’ senior housing. This year the Department on Aging chose to highlight supportive living and reserved the awards exclusively for supportive living residents. Numerous entries were received for the award. Each entry told the story of a supportive living care worker who went beyond their daily responsibilities to care for their residents. The final selection was made, and the 2012 Outstanding Caregiver Award was presented to Sue Peters, Life Enrichment Aide/Administrative Assistant at Alexian Village of Elk Grove during the Governor’s Conference on Aging in Chicago on December 14.

Sue Peters, Life Enrichment Aide/Administrative Assistant, Alexian Village of Elk Grove

 As the LEA, Sue values connection with the residents, co-workers, and visitors. She champions quality of life for her residents through small, thoughtful actions on a daily basis. Sue’s connections go deeper than a “Hi, how are you?” Sue makes a point to learn about the residents’ histories, and who they are today – likes, dislikes, passions and fears. Knowing how important it is emotionally and psychologically for her senior residents to feel connected to others, Sue took the initiative to start an intergenerational reading program with the local elementary school at which she also works part-time. The reading program lifts the self-esteem and spirits of the participating seniors and students alike. Sue is not only there for the residents, but she is a role model to her co-workers, reminding them to keep their eyes, minds, and hearts open to opportunities that exist to better seniors’ lives.

Oak Hill Supportive Living Community is First in Nation to be Green Certified “Gold” by the National Association of Home Builders

Oak Hill Supportive Living Community is the first Assisted Living community in the...


Oak Hill Supportive Living Community is the first Assisted Living community in the United States to meet ICC 700 National Green Building Standard™ criteria and earn “Gold” Certification from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the International Code Council (ICC).

The green building materials and practices used in the construction of Oak Hill provide a more comfortable, healthier living experience for its residents who are senior citizens as well as a positive environmental legacy for future generations.

Opened in July, Oak Hill Supportive Living Community, located at 76 East Rollins Road, Round Lake Beach, IL, was developed by the Crown Group, Landmark Realty & Development and Evergreen Realty Services and features 94 private studio and one-bedroom deluxe apartment homes. The property is professionally managed by Pathway Senior Living. “We are proud of creating an environmentally-friendly community where Oak Hill seniors can enjoy happy and healthy lifestyles today while preserving resources for tomorrow,” said Marty Jablonski of Landmark Realty & Development. “As an added bonus, our green and energy-efficient practices result in cost savings that can be passed on to residents.”

“Oak Hill’s commitment to being compliant with green building standards from the design and construction phase through operation sets an excellent example to the senior living industry of how to plan for future generations while addressing energy and environmental concerns today,” said Art Wehnert, NAHB Green Verifier, who consulted with Oak Hill on the green building process from the beginning through NAHB “Gold” certification.

 In 2007 the NAHB and the ICC partnered to establish a much-needed and nationally-recognizable standard definition of green building. Green building is the practice of increasing the efficiency with which buildings use resources—energy, water and materials—while reducing the building impact on human health and the environment through better design, construction, operation and maintenance.

Oak Hill features the following green attributes:

• Interconnected walking paths to the building and throughout the community that promote outdoor exercise and feature native landscaping, which requires the use of less water and chemical fertilizers to maintain.

• An on-site greenhouse that provides the opportunity for residents to grow their own food, extends the growing season, offers a climate-controlled space for seniors to garden comfortably and promotes healthier eating with fresh, organic produce.

• Efficient heating and cooling of the building along with advanced insulation techniques minimize heating and cooling loss and provide residents and staff with a comfortable environment year round and significant energy cost savings.

• Use of low VOC adhesives, sealants and paints and use of non-formaldehyde processed insulation reduce the amount of toxins in the air and help those with lung disease and asthma breathe easier.

• Energy star rated appliances like refrigerators, dishwashers, clothes washers, light and ceiling fans conserve natural resources and keep energy bills lower.

• Water-conserving plumbing fixtures help residents preserve water resources for future generations.

Oak Hill is the first and only assisted living green building to undergo the full rating system and receive approval from the American National Standards Institute. The ICC 700 National Green Building Standard™ defines green building for single-family homes, low-, mid-, and high-rise multifamily buildings, residential remodeling projects, and site development projects while still allowing for the flexibility required for regionally-appropriate best green practices.

Oak Hill features brand new supportive living apartments with call systems, three meals a day, support services as needed, activities and outings and other social opportunities at an affordable monthly rate. A financial safety net is available to those who qualify. Amenities include a billiard room, dining and community rooms, beauty salon, library, greenhouse and movie theatre.

The community is operated by Pathway Senior Living, which operates 12 other supportive living residences in Illinois. For more information, please call Oak Hill at 847-201-1100.

Pathway Senior Living , VIVA!, Fun and friends remain important throughout life

By Jean Murphy Daily Herald Correspondent


By Jean Murphy
Daily Herald Correspondent

Staying social and having fun are important at any age. What point is there to life if you can’t enjoy yourself, try new things, enjoy favorite pastimes and socialize with others?

Alexian Village, a supportive living community in Elk Grove Village, takes the social engagement of their residents very seriously. The staff takes social outings and adventures to the highest level because they believe in programming to their residents’ abilities, not to their disabilities.

“We want to expand what our residents can do, no matter their age,” said Andi Rothenberg, community life manager for Alexian Village, a Pathway Senior Living community. For instance, staff recently took 11 residents horseback riding, including a blind woman who had never been on the back of a horse in her life. She was thrilled to have the experience, Rothenberg said.

One resident from each of the area Pathway Senior Living communities was likewise chosen to take a hot-air balloon ride — yet another exciting experience that most would not associate with a senior community.

“We encourage our residents to try a variety of things, both new experiences and treasured ones from the past. For instance, we like to take our residents on an annual camping trip so they can relive the fun they had camping as a child, or as a parent, years ago,” Rothenberg said.

“Everyone who wants to go, gets to go, for either a day camp or overnight experience,” she said. “We use a camp for disabled children in Bartlett where we can sleep in cabins and can enjoy a day and night in the woods. While there, residents can rowboat, hike, swim, fish, paint, do crafts, sing, throw horseshoes or baggos and even play cards and share songs and stories late into the night, if they wish.”

This year the campers fried the fish they caught, made pudgie pies, watched a fire spinner and participated in a drum circle.

“These are the kinds of activities that help seniors stay well with their minds actively engaged,” Rothenberg said. “We want them out of their rooms and involved, not sitting alone in their rooms, depressed.”

This year Alexian Village was honored by the International Council on Active Aging for an innovative program it held for the second time this fall — the gourd festival. It began last year as a simple fall festival. But the residents were so entranced and excited by the gourds, that they focused on gourds much of the growing season this year. In the spring they planted the gourds and even had Alexian Village’s bus driver and a member of the maintenance staff build a gourd hut using PVC piping so that the vines would have something to climb.

“Throughout the summer the residents were fascinated by the growth of the gourds, especially since several of them grew gourds in their younger days. We sang to the gourds, which the residents tell me is important, and we pollinated them by hand at night. We also had a local gourd group come out and teach us about gourds,” Rothenberg said. “It was such a fun and educational adventure all summer. Even our residents’ family members got involved.”

The culmination was the gourd festival in September, which included a craft boutique with lots of gourd artists featured, a bake sale, food, a drumming circle, a dancer and a storyteller who used a shakeree made from a gourd.

“I have never seen so many people get so excited about anything,” Rothenberg said.

Alexian Village also offers many more constant and routine forms of socialization for residents, ranging from Happy Hours on Fridays to board games in a gathering place on every floor to a welcoming committee for new residents, to craft classes, to a store manned by residents.

“We are dedicated here to living the VIVA! program, initiated by Pathway Senior Living. Viva means ‘long live’ and through our activities, we try to address all dimensions of aging,” said Pat O’Connor, regional director of sales and marketing.

“Research has shown that people decline cognitively in reaction to a perceived sense of loneliness and that conversation and socialization stimulates the synapses in the brain that prevent cognitive decline,” she said.

“So we offer diverse activities to stimulate our residents and to prevent that kind of deterioration,” added Carole Considine, executive director. “We have literally seen people come to life when they move here, simply because they have people to dine with, engage in activities with and spend quality time with.”

For more information about Alexian Village, located at 975 Martha St., Elk Grove Village, call (847) 437- 8070

*article was published in the Sunday, November 25. 2012 Senior Transitions section in the Daily Herald.

Hurricane Sandy Pets Get Help From Oak Hill Supportive Living Community

In watching images of victims of Hurricane Sandy, the residents of Oak Hill...


In watching images of victims of Hurricane Sandy, the residents of Oak Hill Supportive Living Community in Round Lake Beach realized that some the victims were pet owners and like their human companions, the devastation of the natural disaster had taken everything from them. Many of the residents are pet owners themselves and they all got to talking about what they could do to help the pets in need in New Jersey.

Jan Castillo, Executive Director at Oak Hill Supportive Living Community

Jan Castillo Named Executive Director at Oak Hill Supportive Living


Jan Castillo Named Executive Director at
Oak Hill Supportive Living

August 2, 2012 . . . Round Lake Beach, IL . . . Jan Castillo of Waukegan, IL, has been hired as the Executive Director at Oak Hill, a new supportive living community, located at 76 East Rollins Road in Round Lake Beach, operated by Pathway Senior Living, LLC.

Castillo will oversee Pathway’s award-winning lifestyle known as VIVA! for the residents of Oak Hill’s 94 private studio and one-bedroom apartment homes. Castillo has more than 30 years of experience. Previously, she was a Resident Services Director for The Village at Victory Lakes in Lindenhurst, IL, and prior to that she developed and ran senior centers and adult programs for the Waukegan Park District. Castillo holds a bachelor’s degree from Illinois State University.

“I look forward to providing a lifestyle that integrates daily support for physical needs with wellness offerings that promote continued emotional, intellectual and spiritual growth,” said Castillo, adding that Oak Hill’s many amenities like the greenhouse, community garden, billiard room, library and movie theater will help keep residents engaged and active.

The first residents have already moved into Oak Hill, which features brand new, private apartments with call systems, three meals a day, support services as needed, activities and outings and other social opportunities at an affordable monthly rate based on the applicant’s income. For more information or a residency application, please call Oak Hill Sales Managers Stephanie Slamski or Roseanne Knape 847-201-1100 or visit the website.

Bridging a Gap

Supportive living buildings serve a need,” said Jerry Finis, chief executive...


Supportive living buildings serve a need,” said Jerry Finis, chief executive at Pathway Senior Living, a Des Plaines-based developer that manages 12 supportive living facilities in the Chicago area, most under the brand Victory Centre.

The Illinois Supportive Living Program was launched in the mid-1990s to help control spiraling Medicaid costs. Low-income seniors ofen end up in costly nursing homes even though they don’t need the skilled nursing services. The guiding philosophy behind supportive housing is to provide a cost-effective setting for seniors who need help with daily routines and can’t afford assisted living, but who don’t require nursing care. Illinois is a leader in affordable assisted living, experts say. Other states are experimenting with assisted living for low-income elders, but Illinois has purpose-built facilities that have assisted services and accept Medicaid.

About 60 percent of supportive living residents get help from Medicaid. The other 40 percent of the residents pay the bill themselves. But if they do run out of money, they don’t have to move. Medicaid picks up the costs that residents can’t cover.

Pathway Senior Living, Silverchair Learning System and Yardi Collaborate to Improve Communication with Resident Families

Silverchair Learning Systems and Yardi C


Silverchair Learning Systems and Yardi Collaborate to Help Senior Care Providers Communicate with Resident Families

Silverchair Learning Systems’ For Families, a comprehensive online communications and education system for resident families, has collaborated with Yardi Systems to help senior care providers enrich their communication with resident family members. The two companies have launched their business relationship with shared client Pathway Senior Living.

Silverchair Learning System’s For Families product is designed to provide education and facilitate communication between senior care staff, residents, and their families. Featuring more than 100 educational courses and ready access to important community information, the Family Website, re-branded for Pathway Senior Living as VivaLink!, is the main online information resource for Pathway families. Widespread use of VivaLink! has allowed Pathway to conduct resident family satisfaction surveys online, saving valuable staff time and money.

ALFA Best of the Best Awards Recognize New Best Practices in Senior Living

The Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) today announced the winners of the...


The Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) today announced the winners of the ALFA 2012 Best of the Best Awards. These annual awards honor new innovations in the field of senior living that promote resident quality of life and business excellence. ALFA will recognize the winning best practices at COMMUNITY 2012, the ALFA Conference and Expo, May 16-18 in Dallas.

“This year’s Best of the Best award winners raise the bar for excellence and as a result, set a new standard for providers to embrace,” Richard P. Grimes, president and CEO of ALFA. “Through ALFA and the Best of the Best Awards, senior living providers can learn from one another and together spur quality and innovation in the senior living business.”


Pathway Senior Living, based in Des Plaines, Ill., joined with Yardi Systems of Santa Barbara, Calif., to significantly simplify and automate management of Medicaid billing for Pathway communities offering a Medicaid option. Medicaid billing and coding is a complex process. The Pathway/Yardi Medicaid billing solution reduces the amount of time and effort applied to this function and provides a greater assurance of accuracy across state Medicaid programs.

Vernon Hills' Seniors Enjoy New Home

Loreto Williams has found a new home at the Victory Centre senior community in...


Loreto Williams has found a new home at the Victory Centre senior community in Vernon Hills.

The 85-year Filipino native had been living with her daughter for many years in Vernon Hills but decided she wanted her own apartment and needed a facility that could care for her daily needs. In late March, she moved into one of the supportive living units at the new senior housing complex at 97 Philip Road.

“I love it here,” she said. “I have no complaints (about) the food, the service or staff. My neighbors on the second floor, we all eat together. I love my room.”

The 231-unit Victory Centre by Pathways Senior Living fulfills a long-awaited village goal of providing more affordable senior housing for the community. The complex features two attached buildings, one consisting of 111 senior apartment units and the other building with 120 supportive living units for seniors that require a greater level of care.

Honor Flight Chicago to take Bartlett veterans to visit WWII Memorial

World War II Army veterans and Bartlett residents Wanda Cukla, 91, and Ernie...


World War II Army veterans and Bartlett residents Wanda Cukla, 91, and Ernie Reynolds (pictured above), 87, are preparing for an all-expense-paid trip of a lifetime.

On Wednesday, April 25, the two will fly to Washington, D.C., where they will visit the National World War II Memorial and tour the country’s capital. The trip is hosted by Honor Flight Chicago, part of a national network of nonprofit organizations that have flown more than 80,000 veterans to the memorial for free since 2005.

 “The American veteran is one of our greatest treasures, those men and women who answered our nation’s call, especially at times of our greatest need,” said Honor Flight Chicago President Mary Pettinato.

Alexian Village Welcome "Gourd Heads"

A new club is sprouting at Alexian Village and new members are welcome to join the...


A new club is sprouting at Alexian Village and new members are welcome to join the local area Gourd Patch Group, which meets monthly at the Supportive Living community, located at 975 Martha Street, Elk Grove Village. The only requirement for membership is that you must be enthusiastic about the hard-shelled, crazy-shaped, colorful fruits known as gourds. 
All home gardeners, crafters and gourd enthusiasts, please attend the free monthly meetings of the Gourd Patch Group held at Alexian Village at 1:30 p.m. on the third Saturday of each month: May 19, June 16, July 21, and August 18. For more information, please call 847-437-8070.

New Executive Director Named at Alexian Village

Carole Considine Named Executive Director at Alexian Village by Pathway Senior...


Carole Considine Named Executive Director at
Alexian Village by Pathway Senior Living

Carole Considine of Chicago’s Archer Heights neighborhood was recently named the Executive Director of Alexian Village of Elk Grove, a supportive living community located at 975 Martha Street, off of Biesterfield Road adjacent to Alexian Brothers Medical Center. Alexian Village is owned and operated by Pathway Senior Living, LLC, a premier owner, operator, manager and developer of independent and assisted living communities for seniors.

Considine brings over 20 years of leadership experience in the senior living industry to her new role. Most recently she was the Executive Director of Emeritus in Burr Ridge and prior to that she spent 10 years in management roles with Care Centers and Incorporated, an owner and operator of nursing homes in Illinois. A licensed nursing home administrator, Considine earned a degree in social work from the College of St. Francis in Joliet, IL.

“I am looking forward to contributing to the continued success of Alexian Village as an industry-leader in providing a truly unique and engaged lifestyle that encourages our senior residents to live full and meaningful lives,” said Considine.
Alexian Village, a Supportive Living Community for area seniors, provides an enriched and vibrant lifestyle and supportive services for its older adult residents. Alexian Village features newer, private apartments with call systems, three meals a day, support services as needed, activities and outings and other social opportunities at an affordable monthly rate based on the applicant’s income.

For more information, please call Alexian Village at 847-437-8070 or visit the Pathway Senior Living website.

Bartlett Couple Renew Vows After 60 Years of Marriage

When asked the line “Do you take this woman …?” Art joked, “Let me think about...


When asked the line “Do you take this woman …?” Art joked, “Let me think about it for a minute.” On her turn, Helen looked up at the minister and said, “Do I have a second choice?”

After they were given a bright pink vow renewal certificate the couple cut a cake and shared it with their guests while the Centre’s community life manager Rose Simone told retirement jokes. Everyone also sang to Art, as it happened to be his 85th birthday.

Art and Helen were married on April 15, 1950 at St. Odillo Parish in Berwyn. “It was raining, but we heard rain brings happiness and I guess it does because we’re here,” Helen said with a smile. Because her sister had a big wedding a year earlier, Helen and Art had a smaller ceremony, with the reception at her parents’ house. Helen was 19, Art was 23.

Attitude and Generosity Make Giving a Year-Round Event

The Year of Caring and Sharing started as an average annual food drive in 2009.


The Year of Caring and Sharing started as an average annual food drive in 2009. For the Thanksgiving season, all Pathway Senior Living Supportive Living Communities were working to collect food for the food banks in Chicago. We really advertised the food drive and encouraged not only our staff, but also our residents and even the families of our residents and staff to participate.

The Pathway residents, including those with limited financial resources, were able to contribute more than 3,700 pounds of food to the Chicago-area food banks. After the food drive, no one could ever say again that our seniors were not still able to be a valuable asset to the world outside the walls of our communities.

The following year we again donated food and added blankets and afghans, hats and booties, sweaters and bed jackets. These items were delivered to 25 different hospitals and healthcare facilities as well as shelters for young mothers and facilities for people with Alzheimer’s disease.

In 2010, we decided that we could make a difference in more than just November and December, and giving became a yearlong mission at Pathway communities.

Pathway Senior Living Reinvigorates its Hiring with Kronos

Kronos Incorporated today announced that Pathway Senior Living, one of the...


Kronos Incorporated today announced that Pathway Senior Living, one of the nation’s premier providers of independent and assisted living communities, has selected the Kronos selection and hiring solution to manage the end-to-end hiring process for its 550 employees.

Pathway Senior Living to Break Ground on a New Community in Illinois

Support living options for seniors is coming to Round Lake Beach soon...


For Immediate Release

Contact: Nicole Bartecki


ROUND LAKE BEACH, ILL. – The Crown Group of Hoffman Estates and its partners Landmark Realty & Development and Evergreen Real Estate Services along with Pathway Senior Living, are pleased to announce the groundbreaking for Oak Hill, a 94-unit licensed supportive living community located at 76 East Rollins Road in Round Lake Beach, Illinois. An informal groundbreaking ceremony will occur at the site this Thursday, September 29th at 1 pm, rain or shine.

Scheduled to open in December 2012 at a total development cost of $22.8 million, this four-story, 72,000 square foot building will offer older adults deluxe accommodations in private studio and one-bedroom apartments, along with access to numerous gathering spaces including a community dining room and fitness center, as well as exterior amenities such as a greenhouse, walking paths, and a garden. Residents will receive a variety of supportive services to enhance their lives including three meals a day, weekly housekeeping, life-enriching activities, scheduled transportation, medication management, and light nursing assistance. Some residents may be eligible for financial aid, funded through the State of Illinois’ Medicaid program, which allows those with modest means to afford high-quality services and amenities without relying on contributions from family members and without having to relocate to a nursing home. The community will be operated by an affiliate of Pathway Senior Living, which operates 10 other supportive living residences in Illinois.

Funding for the project was due in large part to an award of Low Income Housing Tax Credits from the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA), investor proceeds from Hunt Capital Group, and a first mortgage loan through the FHA insurance program, brokered by Draper & Kramer, Inc. The Affordable Assisted Living Coalition provided the regulatory guidance necessary to take the project from concept to groundbreaking.

“We are delighted to have been selected as the manager for Oak Hill,” said Maria Oliva, Chief People Officer for Pathway. “Bringing our award-winning branded programs and operating culture to this beautifully designed community is a win-win-win – a win for the 94 future residents and their families who will benefit from peace of mind; a win for the professionally trained staff who will benefit from the more than 50 jobs created; and a win for Round Lake Beach’s Village Board which has been championing the need for high quality senior living options within the Village.”

For more information about Oak Hill or to place an application for housing, please contact Nicole Bartecki, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Pathway Senior Living, 847-768-5143 or nbartecki@PathwaySL.com.

Adventure Camp for Seniors

Adventure Camp for Seniors


Pathway Senior Living’s VIVA! program offers exciting opportunities, like Camp VIVA!, where residents enjoy the full camping experience. The program received ALFA Best of the Best Program to Spotlight recognition because it aims to allow residents more choices and freedom in a creative way.

Pathway Senior Living offers what it calls an “extreme wellness” adventure to senior living residents: a 24-hour camping trip to a scenic handicapped-accessible campground by a lake. The residents get to enjoy camping experiences, including fishing, swimming, hiking, eating outdoors, sleeping on cots in cabins, and roasting marshmallows by the campfire.

The experience has been known to have a profound effect on participants, by bringing back memories, immersing them in nature, and giving them a break from routine. It also has enabled staff and residents to bond in new ways. “Many seniors have had quite a trying life. We need to get out like this. We need a vacation,” says Cokessie Tate, who at 91 took her first camping trip through Camp VIVA!

“I felt like I was back in the Girl Scouts,” says Barbara Sharf, the oldest camper at 94.

Camp VIVA! is part of Pathway’s new VIVA! program, a resident-centered cultural shift that includes encouraging caregivers to take on responsibilities beyond their traditional role, serves as a “life enrichment aide” for the residents in their charge. “Camp VIVA! really embodies what VIVA! stands for, which is that anything is possible,” says Maria Oliva, chief people officer. “We’re able to deliver more than just good care. We want to provide an environment where [residents] have a reason to get up every day. That’s all we really wanted to do.”

To create cultural change, Pathway changed job descriptions and expectations to transcend task-oriented efficiency and enable aides and other employees to seek out opportunities to help residents lead more fulfilled lives. Certain processes have been streamlined to allow caregivers time to, say, read aloud to residents or lead an activity. “We wanted to change the staff focus from ‘I just do activities,’ to create an environment that empowers staff,” says Oliva. “That is a process that takes a long time to change. Efficiency causes people to minimize choice and the freedom residents have.”

Residents, too, are encouraged to take advantage of those choices and freedom by using their individual talents to lead activities and make a difference in their larger communities. Some residents even interview job candidates. “This is not just busywork. It is work that has meaning,” says Oliva. “They actually lead and run programs.”

Pathway Senior Living Programs Recognized as National "Best" by the Assisted Living Federation of America

April 13, 2011…Des Plaines, Illinois…Pathway Senior Living was recognized by the...


April 13, 2011…Des Plaines, Illinois…Pathway Senior Living was recognized by the Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) as part of the ALFA 2011 Best of the Best Awards. The awards program recognizes programs that raise the bar of excellence in senior living.

Pathway, a premier provider of supportive living and senior apartment buildings throughout the Chicago area, was recognized for its “extreme wellness” Camp VIVA! camping adventure for assisted living residents. Camp VIVA! offers assisted living residents a overnight camping excursion to a scenic, handicapped-accessible campground by a lake. Here residents enjoy traditional camping experiences, including fishing, swimming, hiking, cooking and eating outdoors, sleeping on cots in cabins, storytelling and roasting marshmallows by the campfire. The experience brings back old memories, immerses residents in nature, offers a welcome change of scenery and routine and has had a profound effect on seniors who choose to participate.

Pathway’s commitment to “green” operations was also recognized. Pathway’s innovative Microfiber Cleaning System reduces infection, improves staff efficiency and reduces cross-contamination exposure. The program is eco-friendly, cost-effective and significantly contributes to healthier and cleaner living. Microfiber cleaning is one of several environmentally friendly Pathway programs.

“We have the honor to spread the good news about remarkable resident-centered programs fulfilling every aspect of senior-living operations, from wellness services to staff development,” said Rick Grimes, president and CEO of ALFA. “All of this year’s entries speak to the high standard of innovation and professionalism among our members and demonstrate their resourcefulness and ingenuity.”

“We are thrilled that Camp VIVA! and our Microfiber Cleaning system were recognized by ALFA,” said Maria Oliva, Chief People Officer for Pathway. “Both programs are part of Pathway’s life-enriching approach to resident care and lifestyle offerings known as “VIVA!” These programs help residents live whole, happy, healthy and celebrated lives.”

The ALFA 2011 Best of the Best Awards program expanded from previous years. The program received 140 nominations, a record number of submissions. For the first time allied ALFA members, members of ALFA who serve the senior living industry, were able to win the much coveted award. Submissions were judged for their uniqueness in the industry, innovative use of ideas from outside the industry, impact on residents, their families, staff and operations, the strength of quantitative and qualitative results and strategic vision.

In partnership with various not-for-profit partners, Pathway owns or operates vibrant, healthy, residential independent and supportive living communities for seniors in the Chicago neighborhoods of Galewood, Roseland, and South Chicago and in the suburbs of Bartlett, Calumet City, Country Club Hills, Elk Grove Village, Joliet, Melrose Park and Park Forest and will open a new community in Vernon Hills in early 2012. For more information, please call 847-768-5100 or visit the website at www.PathwaySL.com.


CONTACT: Liana Allison
Office: 847-255-5264
Cell: 847-321-8662

Groundbreaking Brings Victory for Vernon Hills Seniors!

A rendering of Victory Centre of Vernon Hills, breaking ground this Thursday,...


A rendering of Victory Centre of Vernon Hills, breaking ground this Thursday, December 2, and slated for opening in early 2012.

TRIB Local – Algonquin
by Kathy Wolf, Community Member Nov. 30, 2010 at 11:50 a.m

Pathway Senior Living, Lake County Residential Development Corp. and the Village of Vernon Hills have good news for seniors and their families who live in Vernon Hills and surrounding communities. On Thursday, December 2, at 3 p.m. they will break ground, with the help of Vernon Hills Mayor Roger Byrne, on construction of a new Senior Apartment and Supportive Living senior community on West Phillip Road adjacent to the Aspen Drive Public Library. The new community, named Victory Centre of Vernon Hills, will offer older adults high-quality, independent living and service-enriched housing that promotes wellness and independence—all at an affordable price.

The senior living community consists of a Senior Apartment building located at 99 W. Phillip Road, Vernon Hills, featuring 111 units, and a Supportive Living facility located at 97 W. Phillip Road, featuring 120 units, 16 studios and 104 junior one bedroom apartments.

“Pathway’s mission has always been to provide high-quality accommodations and services at an affordable cost,” said Bob Helle, Principal, for Pathway Senior Living. “Victory Centre of Vernon Hills, the 11th Victory Centre in Chicagoland, will offer area residents and their loved ones the peace of mind that comes with knowing a helping hand is available should they need it, all at a price they can afford.”

The new Victory Centre community will offer apartment-style housing featuring private residences that residents can furnish and decorate according to their own individual taste. The Supportive Living building will also offer the added conveniences of support services and assistance with personal care and other health services. Residents will have access to three meals a day, weekly housekeeping, scheduled transportation and social, educational and wellness activities as well as help with bathing and dressing, medication management and other support services. In addition, income-qualified residents are eligible to receive financial assistance through Illinois’ supportive living program to defray the cost of assisted living services. Supportive living is a program exclusive to Illinois that offers Illinois’ older adults the ability to utilize Medicaid to subsidize a significant portion of their monthly payment.

Victory Centre of Vernon Hills is scheduled to open early 2012. For more information about qualifications, services, floor plans and pricing, please call

Pathway Senior Living, LLC, creates vibrant communities throughout the Midwest for older adults who seek to maintain their independence. Pathway’s senior apartment buildings combine the convenience and camaraderie of age-restricted housing with the affordability of rents bases on the applicant’s income.

Pathway currently operates communities in the Chicago neighborhoods of South Chicago, Roseland and Galewood; in the Chicago suburbs of Bartlett, Country Club Hills, Elk Grove, Joliet, Melrose Park, Park Forest, and River Oaks. For more information about Pathway and its communities, please visit our website or call 847-768-5100.

A “Blinding Flash of the Obvious”

At Pathway Senior Living, our ground-breaking and award-winning VIVA!


At Pathway Senior Living, our ground-breaking and award-winning VIVA! life-enrichment program earns praise from residents, staff and the senior housing industry for its innovative and person-centered approach to caring.

Below is a recent blog by Dr. Al Power, Author of the book Dementia without Drugs. this blog, along with the New York Times article (link below), are great reminders of the importance of person-centered care where seniors – whether affected by dementia or not – have choices, control, and are seen as individuals with abilities and not minimized because of physical or mental limitations.

I hope you enjoy reading and embrace the examples/messages of how we can help our seniors live meaningful and purposeful lives.

Dr. Al Power

Here’s a “Blinding Flash of the Obvious,” or “BFO”, as our friend Jane Verity, CEO of Dementia Care Australia would say. On New Year’s Day, the New York Times slipped in an article on new approaches to dementia. My inbox lit up with forwarded copies, and many of us celebrated the recognition of something many of us have been preaching for some time.

The article has its share of language issues, such as referring to people as “difficult” or “acting out”, but it hits on several central tenets of what I have come to call an “experiential” approach to dementia. Here are a few of those ideas alluded to in the article:

The key to addressing emotional distress is to know the person, to understand his needs as he sees them, and to work creatively to find solutions that fulfill these needs, without judgment. This often requires that we take away our paternalistic view of people with dementia as being incapable, or somewhat less entitled to choices that we all take for granted. People choosing when they get up or go to bed? “Allowing” a 96-year old to eat chocolate?? How did we get to the point where these are startling revelations??? BFO.

There are many cosmetic and programmatic changes recommended in the article and they all have value. But the gem of the article, in my mind, is the University of Iowa study that showed how durable people’s memories are of positive or negative emotional experiences–even more so than people without dementia–and long after their memory of the details of the experience have faded.

This is important for two reasons. First it shows, as Christine Bryden said in her book Dancing with Dementia, that people who live with dementia make a journey from cognition into emotion (and eventually into spirituality). The emotional content of the moment has extremely powerful effects on a person’s demeanor from moment to moment, day to day.

This leads to the second point: in spite of the value of cosmetic changes, focused activities and programmatic approaches, the real key to well-being lies in the spaces–those individual moments that underlie every interpersonal interaction–not just during bingo, but when greeting someone, giving her a bath or helping with a meal. These interactions leave an indelible impression on a person that will determine how their days (and yours) will play out. As my mother-in-law said to my wife one day, deep into her life with Alzheimer’s, “I don’t know your name, but I know you’re my friend.” One of the best references on these moments is Nancy Pearce’s book, Inside Alzheimer’s which is coming out in a revised edition this year.

We often fail to take the “unmet needs” concept far enough in daily care. The quoted example of putting a dark carpet square (which looks like a hole) in front of the elevator may solve the short-term issue of a person getting on, but we must not stop there. We need to also ask, “Why does she want to leave? What can we do to make this a place where she feels wanted, a sense of belonging and fulfillment, so that the elevator won’t beckon every time she walks by?”

This article is a great leap forward.

Yes We Can! Yes We Did!

Citizen: Chatham-Southeast – November 5, 2008 103-Year-Old Proud to Cast...


Citizen: Chatham-Southeast – November 5, 2008

103-Year-Old Proud to Cast Ballot for Obama

by Lesley R. Chinn

While the lines were long at some polling places on Tuesday, Calumet City resident Fannie Rainey, who witnessed such events that included the Brown vs. the Board of Education Decision in 1954 to integrate the schools to the Voting Rights Act in 1965, did not let that stop her from casting her ballot for Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama.

Rainey, 103, who lives at Victory Centre of River Oaks supportive living communty in Calumet City, cast her ballot at a nearby polling place. “I feel like I’m doing the right thing for this nation. It is the right thing to do to vote because I am voting for my rights,” Rainey said in an interview last Friday at her home before she cast her ballot.

“Obama seems like he is the right person to win and take over this nation and make it better. It’s in bad shape right now because you hear about people killing one another all the time. I believe he can stop some of that.”

When the Calumet City resident was born 103 years ago on September 23, 1905 in Little Rock, Arkansas:

Teddy Roosevelt was the country’s 26th present
The New York Giants won the World Series
First class stamps cost two cents
And civil rights leader W.E.B. DuBois led efforts to end segregation when he helped organize the Niagra Movement, which later reformed itself as the NAACP in 1909 to help fight against segregation.

While Rainey began voting in her 20s, there weren’t many Blacks who voted in the South. Those who did vote were required to pay a poll tax or complete a literacy test. Some even faced arrest or death threat if they attempted to vote.

“It wasn’t very nice or good, but some people voted in different places anyway. If anybody could vote, I felt I should because I was grown and had a right to vote,” she recalled.

Recognizing the sacrifices made during the civil rights movements of the 1950s and 1960s that later led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Rainey said that there is no excuse for today’s young people not to vote. “When I was coming up, young Black people couldn’t vote.”

Now that they have that right, she added, some are not taking advantage of it like they should. “When they don’t vote, they are (doing a disservice) to themselves by not exercising their rights.”

Senior Living project in Vernon Hills gets underway

Daily Herald 12/1/2010 by Mick Zawislak


Daily Herald 12/1/2010 by Mick Zawislak

Tangible results of years of planning will get under way Thursday with the ceremonial groundbreaking of a long sought senior living project in Vernon Hills.

Village leaders and developers of the Victory Centre of Vernon Hills at 3p.m. will mark the beginning of construction of the $40 million project on Phillip Road near Atrium Drive.

The project will consist of two 5-story buildings, an apartment complex with 111 units and a supportive living facility with 120 spots.

“We’ve worked on it since 1993 in our strategic plan”, said Village Trustee Cindy Hebda, who was appointed to the board that year and has served since. “This was long overdue; certainly a need in our community.”

She said some seniors have had to leave Vernon Hills because they couldn’t afford to stay in their homes.

Information presented to the village in the past showed there were 2,400 or more age and income qualified seniors living within five miles of the site.

“We do anticipate the buildings will fill quickly,” said Pat O’Connor, Regional Director of Sales and Marketing for Pathway Senior Living LLC, which operates 10 senior communities in the Chicago area.

“We have had inquiries and we’re tracking them. We do have a list of people waiting for information.”

Lake County Residential Development Corp., a not-for-profit group is a partner in the project, which will be financed in large part through the sale of tax credits for low-income housing.

Developers in past presentations to the village have said 80 percent of the units in both buildings would be targeted to seniors with incomes about $32,000 per year or less.

Supportive Living is a state program created as an alternative to nursing home care. In this scenario, residents can receive help with necessities, such as assistance getting dressed, but does not offer skilled care.

There are no entry fees or deposits, and monthly fees are based on assets and income. Medicaid can be used to help pay those fees, O’Connor said.

“In regular assisted living, when you run out of money, you have to move,” she said.

The buildings will be built simultaneously, but getting them sited and approved was two years in the process. The village sold the land to developers at a discount and allowed them to exceed setback, density and height requirements.

The buildings will be built simultaneously and are scheduled to open early in 2012. They are located near the new Aspen Drive Library in Vernon Hills and will be connected by a walking path.

Aging Campers Turn Up Hearing Aids for Call of the Wild!

The call of the great outdoors has awakened a sense of adventure in a group of...


The call of the great outdoors has awakened a sense of adventure in a group of senior citizens who live at Pathway Senior Living supportive living communities in Chicago and the suburbs. They are foregoing the stereotypical senior accessories of yesterday—television remote controls, knitting needles and bingo markers—in exchange for a modern-day camping venture at the Sunrise Lake Campground in Bartlett, IL, August 16 to the 17.

“Being an elder today does not mean the same thing to everyone. Today’s aging adults are not necessarily content to spend their twilight years in rocking chairs and recliners,” said Colleen Koziara, Pathway’s Regional Life Enrichment Manager, an avid camper who planned the outing. “Our elders still desire to be active, engaged and adventurous! We provide them every opportunity to do so.”

Shouldering duffle bags packed with bug spray, sunscreen, fishing gear and guitars, these active seniors plan to make new memories while communing with nature and relive old memories while reminiscing around an evening campfire.

“I like being out in the woods,” said Victory Centre of River Oaks resident Ray Ferguson, age 68. “My wife and I used to camp with our kids along the Illinois River.” The Ferguson’s haven’t taken a trip together in years due to health complications and are looking forward to getting away to revisit the great outdoors.

Happy “Senior” Campers
About 40 campers ranging in age from 65 to 94 and Pathway staff are sleeping over at the campground, which typically serves children of all abilities. Despite the 60 or 70 year age gap between the school age campers and the senior campers, these “more mature” campers will be enjoying all of the same activities. They can swim in the lake, fish off a dock, row a canoe, hike in the woods, watch birds or make a camping craft.

“Camping is good for the mind, body and soul,” said Colleen Koziara. She optimistically refers to this trip as the “First Annual Pathway Camping Trip,” so sure of the trip’s success that a second, third and fourth trip will follow.

Even those campers with physical challenges can camp. Sunrise Lake Campground is handicapped accessible with features like paved trails and elongated picnic tables to accommodate wheelchairs, and Pathway support staff will be present for the entire event. Meals will be cooked outdoors on open fire pits and, of course, there will be an evening campfire with s’mores and storytelling. All campers will bunk indoors on cots with multiple people to a room.

The New Senior Lifestyle
While the appeal of camping is timeless, senior living has changed greatly over the years. Like the group of Pathway campers, many older folks today remain active and still enjoy adventuring. The overnight camp trip is a unique and fun way for seniors to experience the benefits of a change in routine, fresh air, exercise, socializing and creating new memories. All plusses at any age!

On day two, the campers can rise early to enjoy a sunrise over the lake, fishing, a fresh, hot breakfast and one last bit of fun before boarding the bus back to the retirement community. They’ll leave behind the bugs, humidity and lumpy cot mattresses, but take with them a renewed sense of adventure and memories to last a lifetime, yes, even at age 94!

About Pathway Senior Living

In partnership with various not-for-profit partners, Pathway creates and operates vibrant, healthy, residential communities and supportive programs for seniors located in Chicago, Bartlett, Calumet City, Country Club Hills, Elk Grove Village, Joliet, Melrose Park and Park Forest. For more information please call 847-768-5100 or visit the Pathway Senior Living website.

Celebrating Good Value

Pathway Offers Seniors and Their Families Peace of Mind in These Financially...


Pathway Offers Seniors and Their Families Peace of Mind in These Financially Uncertain Times
The high cost and undesirable setting of a nursing home, the confusing pricing structure of most assisted living providers, and the unreliability and expense of private home health care staff can be a financial and emotional drain on seniors and their families alike. Fortunately, thanks to a decade-old Illinois-funded option called Supportive Living, seniors and their families can finally have peace of mind.

Supportive Living is vastly improving the outlook for many seniors’ golden years. Like assisted living, Supportive Living offers three daily meals, medication management, weekly housekeeping and laundry, scheduled activities and trips, routine maintenance, most utilities, and personal assistance with the activities of daily life such as bathing, dressing, grooming and other supportive services. But the most important and often overlooked benefit is the financial peace of mind offered.

Chicago-based Pathway Senior Living is a leading provider of supportive living, also known as affordable assisted living. As a founder of the supportive living program more than a decade ago, Pathway now serves over 1,000 seniors in 10 supportive living communities throughout Chicago and its suburbs. An all-inclusive rate covers all services (except phone and cable). Such predictable pricing enables sound financial planning for residents and their families. No entrance fees or upfront fees help reduce the barrier to entry. And it only gets better.

Qualified residents who may be or may become low on funds have the ability to apply for the community’s financial assistance program – not available in most other assisted living settings. This unique benefit enables residents to remain at the community and maintain their independence and dignity without having to move in with family or placed in a semi-private room in a nursing home. Financial and medical screening is required for residency, but once qualified, residents can rest assured knowing that future care needs which can safely be provided in a Supportive Living setting will be delivered regardless of their ability to pay privately. Qualified residents turn over their income and keep $90 per month in spending money for incidental expenses, and the state pays the balance of their care costs.

Learn more about how you or a loved one could qualify for this innovative program that provides access to:

  • A well-maintained building with private studio apartments (companion apartments available in some communities)
  • Three nutritious daily meals with lots of menu options
  • Support with cleaning and home maintenance
  • Social activities, scheduled transportation and helpful conveniences
  • Medication management
  • And discreet help with personal care needs
by contacting or visiting one of our supportive living communities today.

And the Dish Ran Away with the Spoon

Pathway Senior Living partners with Unidine to deliver sensational dining As seen...


Pathway Senior Living partners with Unidine to deliver sensational dining

As seen in US Business Review, Winter 2010
Building a successful vendor partnership not only leads to the achievement of common goals, it helps to bring about a stronger, long-lasting relationship. Most importantly, if structured correctly, it enhances the customer experience resulting in increased satisfaction, increased profitability, or both. This is exactly what Pathway Senior Living is achieving through its partnership with Unidine Corporation.

Based in the Chicago area, Pathway is a developer, owner and operator of mixed-income assisted living communities. Since the company’s inception a decade ago, Pathway has handled food service in house, appointing one regional food service director to oversee the program. While that structure is an industry norm, Pathway quickly recognized that the structure was not scalable, was not cost effective, and ultimately, was not meeting the needs of residents.

“We were doing a good job, but we were not innovating and certainly would never be able to bring to bear the resources and competitive advantages that a company focused solely on dining services could deliver,” explains Aaron D’Costa, Vice President of Marketing & Business Development.”

A Seat at The Table
The company sought to outsource its food service operations to provide its 1000+ residents with better meal and services options, with the vendor constraint of doing so in a more cost effective manner. In examining a number of vendors, Unidine Corporation, a Massachusetts-based food and dining management services company, was selected based on a number of key factors.

“We felt they had a similar vision, values and entrepreneurial spirit, and their people just got it, said D’Costa. “They took the time to understand our business, they cared deeply for the seniors we serve, they shared our desire for environmentally sustainable practices, and from that, they demonstrated their expertise in ways that went far beyond our expectations.”

Unidine focuses on providing food and dining management services to the health care sector, and had been seeking to enter the Chicago market. “The opportunity to partner with a well-respected senior living operator such as Pathway was an easy decision,” says President and CEO Richard Schenkel, of Unidine. “Their leaders are as passionate about exceeding customer expectations as we are about providing exceptional dining services. We knew we could deliver on the quality they were seeking. But they challenged us to go beyond our business model.”

Where’s The Beef?
Pathway’s Chief People Officer, Maria Oliva, who oversees all operations including food service, was the first to recognize the outsourcing opportunity. She leveraged the partnership to create a better value proposition for residents by challenging Unidine to give up their brand identity in favor of a Pathway-branded program. In collaboration with Unidine, Pathway branded the dining services program senseSations!™, basing it on the criteria of:

  • Taste – “The ultimate goal was to ensure that residents felt the food tasted better and then they would, in turn, eat better,” Oliva explains.
  • Smell – The program encourages the use of natural ingredients, herbs and spices for a just-like-home aroma.
  • Sight – Servers wear aproned uniforms and use table settings that communicate a fine dining experience.
  • Hearing and Touch – The program included adding a liveliness and elements of interactivity to the dining experience with carving stations, special events and unique touches from customer-centric waitstaff.

“If we can help residents eat better, make healthier food choices and truly enjoy their dining experience, maybe we can start helping them move off of certain medications – perhaps help them live longer,” Oliva said.

Check, Please!
Pathway found that the necessary in-house infrastructure was not something it could cost-effectively manage. However, by thinking outside the box and partnering with a national food service company with proven systems, standards, efficiencies and purchasing power, Pathway could actually enhance its food service program at no additional cost to their operations.

Gracie the Dog Makes a Jail Break

Finds Home and Freedom in Early Retirement at Alexian Village


Two-year-old, golden retriever and yellow lab mix Gracie went from an animal shelter in Ohio to spending seven weeks in prison. She now lives at Alexian Village, a supportive living community for seniors, where she is free to roam in her new home. Gracie has over 100 senior citizen owners and a doggie playmate too at the retirement community located at 975 Martha, Elk Grove Village.

Gracie traveled a rough path to early retirement at Alexian Village, but the journey was well worth the final destination.

After being dropped off at an animal shelter by a family who could no longer care for her (an increasingly common sign of the times), Gracie underwent a unique training program at a correctional facility to help make her easier to adopt. Gracie moved into a jail cell with an inmate named Gregory. For seven weeks, Gregory, who was chosen for and rewarded with participation in this elite program, trained Gracie. Gracie mastered basic commands such as “sit, stay, heel, down and come;” she learned “no” and how to walk on a leash. Plus, Gracie’s inmate trainer enjoyed the canine companionship and opportunity to make a difference in this dog’s troubled life.

After “doing time,” Gracie joined the ranks of several other dogs that are a part of DesPlaines-based Pathway Senior Living’s innovative “See Spot Retire” program. The program, which encourages and facilitates dog adoptions at Pathway-owned senior communities throughout the Chicago area, connects canines, young and old, with senior citizens to help enrich their retirement years. The pets enjoy “a dog’s life” with their senior owners, and the program offers residents the many known benefits of pet relationships including: reduced blood pressure; increased relaxation; stress relief; ease of pain; increased activity; better overall morale; help coping with illness, loss and depression; decreased isolation; increased communication; opportunities for touch and contact; and better physical and mental health.

Ruth Ann Peters, the Executive Director of Alexian Village, travelled to Ohio to pick up Gracie and bring her to her new home at Alexian Village. Ruth Ann learned of Gracie’s situation from her sister, who lives in Ohio and knew of Gracie’s unique history. “I picked Gracie up on my birthday,” said Ruth Ann. “She was like a present to me and all the residents at Alexian Village.”

Gracie is a 50-pound gift of unconditional love. The residents love to spend time with Gracie, petting her, playing with her and taking walks together.

Alexian Village of Elk Grove, a supportive living community, provides quality residential accommodations, amenities, meals, social activities, personal care, support services and financial assistance for seniors age 65 and older. For more information about Alexian Village or Pathway Senior Living’s “See Spot Retire” program, please call 847-437-8070.

Affordable Evolution

The economic climate shines new light on alternate-pay assisted living models, but...


The economic climate shines new light on alternate-pay assisted living models, but state-level policy largely holds the reins on growth

Visit Any BMA Management supportive Living community in Illinois, And you probably won’t notice much difference Between it and any neighboring market-rate competitor. Some BMA community dining rooms may feature candelabras instead of chandeliers. Perhaps some of the apartments or shared spaces feature more paint than wallpaper and not as much wood trim.

Move beyond the first glance and onto monthly rates and you still won’t see big differences. Monthly fees for a supportive living apartment and services at one of BMA’s 29 communities in southern Illinois is about $2,500, and in the suburbs of Chicago, in the low $3,000s. Most residents, however, (60 percent) pay these fees through a combination of Medicaid, food stamps, and the checks they receive from Social Security. The Bradley, Illinois-based company ranked No. 24 in assisted living residents on the 2009 Largest Providers list (see Assisted Living Executive, March/April issue) and, despite a down economy, has opened six new properties this year and plans to expand into Indiana in 2010.

“I don’t want anyone to think that affordable means cheap,” says rod Burkett, BMA’s president. “We have shown that we can be profitable but still hold to our mission of serving seniors of all in- come levels and build a quality community. The proof is that 40 percent of our residents pay privately, and they could go elsewhere if they wished.”

The affordable sector is a huge untapped market for senior living, but inadequate Medicaid reimbursement rates, complex bureaucratic hoops, and the need for creative financing have long discouraged most assisted living providers from investing in the sector. Still, those few who have succeeded in finding a workable business model for afford- able communities have shown that not only can the category be profitable but also that it has more stability in times of economic distress.

Some providers and advocates believe that with states seeking ways to find cost-savings in strapped Medicaid budgets, the political climate has never been better for companies interested in this sector to advocate for the changes needed to make it profitable.

Market watch
Everyone evokes the baby boomers as proof of the market potential for senior living overall. But Burkett says that the economic shakeout of the past year has also underlined the affordable sector as a market providers should take seriously.

“Look at what’s happened to pensions and retirement plans,” he says. “How many people in their 60s and 70s have half or less than half of their nest egg for later in life? The demand for affordable assisted living is only going to be greater in the next 10 years.”

Current economic woes have forced down rates at many communities, says roger Bernier, president and CEO of Fanville, New Jersey-based chelsea senior Living, which operates 13 communities in New Jersey and New York. “Prices have come down in many markets by as much as 15-20 percent, although they have come up a little bit in the past few months,” he adds.

So while market-rate and affordable rents may sometimes be in the same ballpark, the term “affordable” assisted living generally targets Medicaid-eligible seniors, says Wayne Smallwood, executive director of the Affordable Assisted Living Coalition. Currently, many of those seniors benefit from home and community-based services (HCBS) waiver programs, enacted by many states in the 1990s and early 2000s. A smaller number cover some assisted living expenses through their state Medicaid plans, in lieu of or in addition to the HCBS waiver. Only about 115,000 people in residential care settings nationwide— which includes assisted living but not adult foster/family care—relied on Medicaid in 2007, according to HHS. HCBS waivers accounted for just $25.6 billion, or 8.6 percent, of Medicaid spending on long-term care in 2006. Only one quarter of that amount went to senior care, with the rest devoted to people of any age with mental retardation or developmental disabilities.

Over the past few years, states have made few changes to their waiver pro- grams, but Medicaid rates have fluctuated and in some cases even declined, says Robert Jenkins, vice president of NCB Capital Impact, an organization that manages Coming Home, a national grant program that facilitated the construction of 42 affordable assisted living communities through state partnerships.

“The fact that Medicaid rates have gone down in some states and haven’t gone up in some states for a while makes it difficult to attract operators and investors to affordable assisted living,” Jenkins says.

Policy Perspective
Despite the challenges that come with the affordable model, Jenkins encourages providers interested in this sector to approach state legislators and Medicaid officials to advocate for changes in waiver and other state programs to make affordable assisted living more financially viable. Citing powerful examples of state success stories is a good place to start.

In Illinois, 115 buildings have qualified for supportive living licensure since the program was founded in 1997, and these have an average Medicaid census of 60 percent, Smallwood explains. The state Medicaid waiver program pays a per-resident rate that ranges from $59.13 per day in southern Illinois to $75 per day in Chicago, compared to $110 per day for a nursing home stay. In fiscal year 2007, that meant a savings to the state of $93 million.

“In Illinois, we had providers lined up at the door to get into the program,” says Smallwood, who was one of the proSpeedy qualification for Medicaid is another benefit, says Aaron d’costa, vice president of marketing and business development for Des Plaines, Illinois-based pathway senior Living, which operates 10 supportive living communities in the state. “If you’re not already qualified for Medicaid, it typically takes seven days if all the sources get back to us, including the bank, which has to verify assets. Less than 10 percent of cases extend beyond a month,” D’Costa says.gram’s key architects. “We were the only state where that happened.”

Of course, not everything runs smoothly all the time. Recently, Medicaid payments were running six months late, but Illinois has improved its reimbursement practices and recently Pathway has been receiving funds within 60 days, D’Costa says. BMA budgets for a six- to nine-month Medicaid receivable reserve account to allow for any payment delays, Burkett says. “It some- times makes cash planning a little more challenging, but it’s manageable when you build it in up front,” he adds.

Arkansas also has taken steps to en- courage affordable assisted living development. For example, the state has a cost-of-living adjustment built into its waiver reimbursement rate, Jenkins says. “This is very significant because it gives lenders and operators confidence that reimbursement rates won’t get worse,” he adds. “If you have a 20- or 30-year commitment on a building and the market is based at least in part on Medicaid, you need to know the Medic- aid program will remain viable.”

Allowable Allocations
Even through the waiver program in Illinois, Medicaid reimbursement cannot cover all of a resident’s expenses. Fed- eral law forbids the use of Medicaid dol- lars for room and board. So both Path- way and BMA have relied on tax-credit financing and HUD financing to bring down the cost of construction, which helps keep monthly room rates at a more affordable level.

“Tax-credit financing has enabled us to build a market-rate looking building that normally would cost $40 million for 100 units for just $25 million based on the credits we receive,” D’Costa ex- plains. “As a result of that savings and not having to pay down debt, we can of- fer a lower monthly rate to everyone in the building, so private-pay rates also are more affordable in comparison to what someone might pay in a market-rate building.”

For example, for a Medicaid-eligible resident living in a Chicago community, Pathway would receive $75 per day, about $2,300 a month, from Illinois Medicaid; an additional $110 per month from state food stamps; and, thanks to tax-credit financing, the rest—approximately $600—would come from a resident’s Social Security earnings to equal a total monthly rate of about $3,000. The income threshold to qualify for the latter program, which allows seniors to keep $90 a month for incidental expenses, is as high as $31,680 per year. Pathway helps seniors with the paperwork to qualify for all of the programs, as well as assistance with accessing other pro- grams that pay for medications.

Tax-credit financing even has allowed Pathway this year to complete Victory Center of South Chicago, one of the country’s first assisted living communities to qualify for LEED certification, a national standard in energy efficiency and environmental responsibility.

However, tax-credit financing is much harder to find in a down economy when companies already have lost so much and don’t need to create new liabilities, Burkett says. Despite being confident that demand for affordable assisted living hasn’t dipped—and may even be on the rise due to a decline in seniors’ assets—the downturn in the capital market has meant that BMA will likely only open two new communities in Illinois and two in Indiana next year. Burkett says that in 2010 the company wanted to build at least four or five new communities in Illinois. “We have pieced together the down payment, but it’s the debt financing that’s slowed down. HUD financing now is the only real player,” he adds.

Burkett thinks tax-credit financing will come back, but the question is when.

On the other hand, the economic downturn uncovered an opportunity for Chelsea Senior Living; the company got a bargain on an assisted living community with 100 apartments and capacity for 120 residents. The community, whose residents are half private-pay and half Medicaid-supported, had fallen into bankruptcy and foreclosure. The community is now called The Chelsea at Tom’s River, and the company hopes to eventually fill it with a 40-60 split of Medicaid and private-pay residents, Bernier says. “It’s an interesting property in that it’s very large and all rooms could be semi-private under New Jersey rules, which allows us flexibility,” he adds. “It didn’t have an Alzheimer’s unit, but since there’s a high demand for more affordable Alzheimer’s products, we’re [converting] some rooms.”

Still, the project would not have been attractive if New Jersey did not have one of the nation’s highest Medicaid reimbursement rates at $94 per day. And be- cause that amount is more than 50 per- cent less than state nursing home day rates, and labor costs in New Jersey are high due to strict regulatory guidelines, Bernier says it could be even higher.

“If the state paid $125 per day, we could take care of more people and it would still be attractive for the state,” he adds. One plus is that New Jersey does allow for families to subsidize the difference between a shared and private room, he notes. Chelsea also has a policy of never discharging a resident because he/she runs out of money—whether or not the resident qualifies for Medicaid.

However, outside of foreclosures and distressed properties, Bernier says the acquisition market is still limited because sellers haven’t reduced their prices to reflect current economic realities.

Developers in the affordable sec- tor also could benefit from a HUD announcement in September allocating $20 million to help convert multifamily apartment complexes into assisted living communities for low-income senior citizens. The grants will be awarded on a competitive basis and must meet all local codes and regulations for assisted living.

Anya Martin is a contributing writer to Assisted Living Executive. Reach her at amartin@alfa.org.

A New Path to Affordable Senior Living

There is a real need for affordable senior living throughout the United States— and...


There is a real need for affordable senior living throughout the United States— and Pathway Senior Living is looking to
fill that need throughout the Midwest.

Pathway plans, develops, finances and ac- quires senior housing throughout the Midwest.
As an owner and operator, Pathway brings a uniquely long-term perspective to its proper- ties. The company has a history of forming strong public-private partnerships with community groups, nonprofits and municipalities in order to bring high-quality affordable senior living to neighborhoods in need.

Pathway has been developing properties for more than a decade. “Our first project was the renovation of the old Joliet Catholic High School into senior living apartments,” says Robert H. Helle, Principal for Pathway. “Our typical model over the years has been afford- able senior housing. By affordable, we mean we use low-income tax credits and other types of financing that are specific to low- and moderate-income people.”

Serving the lower income seniors does not mean the company compromises on quality, however. “What sets us apart from some of the other tax credit developers out there is that we try to develop to a standard that is equivalent to market-rate projects,” says Helle.

“We tend to be, in terms of development costs, on the expensive end of the spectrum for low- income developers because we’re trying to compete with market-rate developers.”

The desire to operate as a market-rate company while providing an essential service for low and moderate-income seniors is a goal that stretches from development through operations—at each stage every effort is made to create as high quality a product as possible.

“We measure ourselves against market- rate developers and operators and use affordable housing to make our projects applicable to low-income residents,” says Helle.

In real dollars, the quality is there for residents but the cost is curbed. A market-rate senior apartment that would cost $1,100 to $1,500 per month would be just $400 to $750 at a Pathway site, dependent on income. Assisted living rates are even more dramatic. Where a market-rate project would start at $4,000 a month, Pathway rates would begin at $2,850 a month.

In addition to fulfilling a need and enjoying strong occupancy rates, Pathway has developed creative approaches to financing. “The tax credit industry has really declined in the last couple of years because the major investors in tax credits have been major banks, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and AIG—so we’ve got a perfect storm there,” says Helle. “Our biggest challenge today is to try and find
new investors in this market. It’s a very specialized type of investment. We’re working with a number of banks directly now, where before we would work through a syndicator—we’re taking a direct approach. That’s the biggest change we’re seeing.”

Despite those challenges, Pathway is still looking to develop two deals a year for the next several years. The company has applications for supportive living facilities in Lake County pending. Those are expected to be approved, along with two senior apartment buildings.

Pathway is also expanding via acquisition of distressed or foreclosed market-rate properties. The company is also growing through management contracts of all types of senior housing.

With experience throughout the Chicago area, Helle is always looking for new opportunities in desired neighborhoods for Pathway.

“We did a project in Roseland and while working through the zoning process we met the alderman that is the head of the zoning commission for the city,” explains Helle. “Alderman William J.P. Banks was such a nice gentlemen that I wondered what his home ward was so I could see if we could do a project there. We found out it was on the northwest side in an area we’d targeted for a long time. The Gale- wood area has a lot of seniors that fit our profile and if you can find land there you have a great opportunity—but it is very hard to find land there.”

Helle consulted with Alderman Banks and, after chasing down a few leads, found a site on a prominent corner location at Newcastle and Grand Avenue. It was a tight site, formerly the parking lot of a car dealership, making construction challenging but ultimately serving the residents well.

Victory Centre of Galewood provides 102 studio apartment units in a supportive living environment. It offers a community dining room, commercial kitchen and 24-hour staff. Generally, Pathway’s Victory Centres have a ground floor outdoor space but given the site constraints the ground floor takes up the entire property footprint. However, there is a courtyard on the second floor that goes up to the fourth floor that serves as green space for the residents and qualifies the building as a City of Chicago green roof.

The building is designed for long-term energy efficiency. “We have a lot of incentive to reduce energy costs because we’re paying the utilities and owning the building for the long term,” says Helle. “We’ve always used white roofs and in this case we utilized a green roof. Corporate-wide we’ve adopted a lot of LEED basic certification requirements, including using non-VOC paints and cleaners. It is a philosophy that is embedded in our operations as well as our development side.”

Victory Centre of Galewood opened in February 2009. “It’s a very strong market for us, without a lot of competition,” says Helle. “And while it was a struggle to get it together now that it’s there, it’s doing well. We expect that it will have a waiting list.”

Most of Pathway’s projects have a waiting list. “Because we’re serving people of an advanced age we have a fair amount of turnover, anywhere from 25 to 50 percent a year,” says Helle. “The average resident stays with us two to four years and there is a strong demand for affordable senior housing.”

South Chicago needed an affordable senior living residence. “There is a community group there, the Claretians, and they have a strong presence in the community,” says Helle. “They had a site and asked us if we would develop it with them. We worked on that deal for quite a while before the city discovered they would have to widen the street and we had to move our project.”

Luckily, the site directly across the street became available—and that site did not require widening the street. At almost four acres, it was an unusually large city site to come up for development.

Victory Centre of South Chicago opened its five-story, 112-unit supportive building in April. “We will soon be breaking ground soon on a second building on the site, which will be a senior apartment building,” says Helle.

The South Chicago site is part of an overall LEED for Neighborhood Development plan and Victory Centre is LEED certified. “I generally shy away from obtaining certification because of the added cost but we often score ourselves internally and try to make sure we’re building to a minimum of LEED certification,” says Helle.

As part of the green components, the building has a reflective rooftop. In addition to a ground floor outdoor patio, Victory Centre of South Chicago features a roof deck with views of the lake and the city skyline.

News from Pathway Senior Living LLC