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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

home : features : features February 26, 2015

2/2/2013 9:59:00 PM
THE GOOD PATIENT: Arizona Pioneers' Home: accommodations and features
Elizabeth Bewley
Courier Columnist

This is the 24th in a series of articles intended to demystify living in a retirement community.

Like a favorite elderly relative, the Arizona Pioneers' Home is quirky but engaging. Every comment I've heard about the Pioneers' Home has reflected great respect bordering on reverence.

Home to roughly 100 Pioneers - elderly long-term residents of Arizona, typically with limited means - and disabled miners, the Arizona Pioneers' Home has a unique approach to creating a pleasant environment.

Every new resident moves into a double-occupancy room, and is on probation for 60 days. If they don't get along well with the staff and other residents during that period, they are asked to leave.

Superintendent Ted Ihrman remarked, "We may not all be one big happy family, but we are something very close to it!"

Housing is akin to dorm rooms or hospital rooms, rather than apartments. Generally, residents have about 144 square feet each - roughly 12' x 12.' The ability to get along with others is highly prized partly because everyone lives in such close quarters.

A single bathroom may be shared by two rooms - four people - or may even be down the hall. Each person may have only a few feet of closet space.

Other characteristics also seem reminiscent of summer camp or a boarding school of the 1950s. For example, the Pioneers' Home does not have a health center or medical center or nursing wing or doctor's office - it has "infirmaries."

When asked about this choice of terms, Ihrman started laughing. "The state of Arizona told us, as part of an inspection a few years ago, that we should change the name. We took it to the residents, and they said, 'They've been infirmaries for a hundred years! Why change now?' So we didn't."

The Pioneers' Home operates with more staff and higher skill levels of staff than is typical in other retirement communities with a similar population. For example, at least one registered nurse is on duty 24/7.

Because the Pioneers' Home operates under its own set of state statutes, the Arizona Department of Health Services inspects the site but doesn't post the results as it does for sites that it licenses.

Residents with whom I spoke were uniformly friendly and articulate. When asked what they liked best, typical answers included, "The people and the way they get along together," "It's a good place to be," "They treat you well," and "The security - knowing that I'll be taken care of."

When asked what they'd change, answers ranged from "Nothing," offered after a long, thoughtful pause, to "Give everyone a private room," although in that case the speaker went on to say that of course it was necessary to trade off that luxury against the benefit of being able to take care of more people.

The Pioneers' Home provides amenities such as a library, a computer, wi-fi access, monthly birthday parties, card games, Bingo and transportation to stores.

A recent outing took residents to the Verde Valley Archeology Center. Other outings may see residents at the rodeo or the county fair, fishing, gold panning, visiting museums, and taking in community performances.

A recent calendar listed groups/events such as a writing and poetry class, a walking club, a sing-along, crafts, a variety of religious services and a visit from the Presbyterian Singers.

Arizona Pioneers' Home also boasts its own rhythm band, concerts by resident musicians, and weekly bowling - in the lobby!

Correction: the Arizona Pioneers' Home apologizes for providing incorrect information for the previous article regarding the maximum charge that residents may pay. The correct information follows.

Residents other than miners must reimburse the state for as much of the cost of their care, currently $4,702 a month, as possible. Residents may keep $200 a month for personal expenses. Someone with $250 in monthly income would pay just $50. Someone with $20,000 in monthly income would pay $4,702.

People who can afford to pay a significant portion of the full cost - more than $56,000 a year - are likely to consider other options. For example, the base rate for a private assisted living apartment at Granite Gate with about four times the space is roughly $30,000 a year.

Elizabeth L. Bewley is president and CEO of Pario Health Institute and the author of "Killer Cure: Why Health Care Is the Second-Leading Cause of Death in America and How to Ensure that It's Not Yours." To tell Elizabeth your story or to ask her a question, write to

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