‘Independent Living Plus’ at The Oaks
Beverly Spinti knows what she wants. So when she and her husband Bob moved into their two-bedroom apartment at The Oaks 16 years ago, she had the stove removed from the kitchen.
“I basically don’t have to do anything at all that I don’t want to do,” she said. “To not have to cook and not have to clean, that is heaven!”
The Oaks, a Mosaic independent living apartment community, is in Menomonie, Wisconsin. Residents describe it as “independent living plus.”
The “plus” includes the things you pay extra for elsewhere: a family-style lunch served 365 days a year with leftovers the residents can take to their apartments, cable TV (not just the basics), once-a-week apartment cleaning, and even transportation when needed.
Many of the residents echoed Beverly. Having someone else do the cooking was part of their reason for moving into The Oaks. They still could cook if they choose to—the apartments, except Beverly and Bob’s, all have stoves—but most choose not to cook.
Vena Hannack, a 20-year employee, creates a monthly menu including items like pork loin, barbecue ribs, chow mein and beer-battered fish. The chow mein (served with eggrolls of course) is a resident favorite, she said.
Relationships she has developed and the life lessons she’s learned are what have kept her working at The Oaks, Vena said. Plus, helping people is a part of her nature, so being a part of providing a secure, comfortable home for others is the right career fit.
“We’re like the perfect child you never had who’s always here for you,” she said.
Scott Husby, executive director at The Oaks for 18 years, feels the “community, companionship and camaraderie” help people age with better health.
His experience mirrors the research about the social determinants of health; the connections you have to others and where you live affect your overall health.
“There’s always someone to talk to,” Scott said, “and opportunities to keep your mind sharp.”
Many of the residents at The Oaks are busy. They travel, garden, hike the trails in the woods around The Oaks, attend events in Menomonie (a university town) and basically do what they want.
Some residents help in the kitchen because they enjoy it. Others help with the yardwork, or even shoveling during Wisconsin’s winters (yes, they enjoy Wisconsin winters). The Oaks gives them a secure environment to enjoy life on their terms, the life they choose.
And it’s clear they appreciate it. Their advice to others? Move into independent living before you’re too old to enjoy it.
“Being here allows us to be active,” Beverly said.