“The Old Mill Stream”

Abiitan Mill City Turns Aging into Freeflowing Luxury

As the current millennium dawned, Minneapolis’s Mill District underwent a radical renaissance. For decades it had lain more or less dormant after decades as the world’s largest flour producer. That renaissance delivered new life to those pre-existing buildings, turning disused warehouses into loft homes and office spaces, restaurants and condos. And a similar renaissance is energizing some of the Mill District’s newest residents, those who hang their hats within a senior living community that takes its name from the Ojibwe word “to occupy” — Abiitan.

Photo courtesy of Abiitan Mill City

“Abiitan’s parent company is Ecumen, a nonprofit organization committed to improving lives of senior adults,” Tommaso Cammarano, life enrichment manager of Abiitan Mill City, reports. “The organization’s vision is to defeat ageism.” In fact, the Shoreview-based company is one of the nation’s largest nonprofit providers of senior housing and aging services. Ecumen’s vision of defeating ageism might seem lofty in theory, but its newest outpost supplies plenty of practice to back it up. “The whole idea behind Abiitan is to strengthen and support communities that engage all ages, so our residents are involved in giving back to the Mill City area,” Cammarano continues.

This sort of life enrichment comes with specific criteria. “Generally, senior living is about seniors living where and how they want to live,” explains Erwan Moison, Abiitan Mill City’s executive director. “Technically speaking, ‘senior living’ is a term that means housing, and sometimes services, that cater specifically to people over age 55.” And sometimes senior living is really living. As Moison notes, “Abiitan Mill City is a luxury downtown rental community designed for people 55 or over which offers an amenity-rich urban experience and provides care options as needed.”

What’s needed by residents is sometimes overshadowed with what’s wanted by residents. “What they seem most impressed with is the combination of Abiitan’s luxury hotel hospitality with top-flight healthcare services, from overall fitness to assisted living and memory care as needed,” says Moison. “They expect a nice building and the location but love our customer service and follow-through. They comment that our staff is what makes Abiitan a great place to live. Abiitan’s employees always want to go a step further to delight our residents. They want to be independent as long as possible.”

So independence is the name of the game at Abiitan Mill City, and the tools available are myriad. “For independent living, we offer a range of 24/7 à la carte services, from simple help with grooming all the way to nursing services,” Moison outlines. “In The Terraces at Abiitan, our memory care neighborhood, the care is included. Our philosophy and approach is based on Ecumen’s award-winning Awakenings program, which significantly reduces the use of psychotropic drugs and replaces them with alternative approaches such as aromatherapy and music therapy. This resident-centered approach provides better quality of life, while honoring each person’s individuality.”

Photo courtesy of Abiitan Mill City

But that’s only part of the story. “Our residents want the modern, urban experience,”  Moison observes. “They love the convenience and community of city living, especially being steps from the Guthrie, the Mill City Farmer’s Market, and the Stone Arch Bridge. Plus, they love having Smith & Porter, a great restaurant and bar, onsite.”

2017’s hottest months will bring sanctioned activities to a fever pitch. “This summer we look forward to supporting and nurturing the woonerf (the open space next to our building) as a neighborhood gathering space, instead of another parking lot,” Cammarano says.

Photo courtesy of Abiitan Mill City

Some activities will prove to be just as political as they are practical. “Abiitan Mill City will be a proud participant in Pride, and we are looking forward to other events like a block party,” Cammarano elaborates. “We’ve enjoyed participating in the Mill City Farmer’s Market last year.”

The residents often find themselves as repurposed as the sturdy structures that surround Abiitan Mill City. Of the residents he serves, Cammaro concludes, “They already have vital lives and friends, but moving here has opened up their world even more because they are so close to everything. They can participate in so many activities without needing transportation. And they are doing so many things they didn’t expect to do, like take tap dancing lessons, learning about Matisse, and discussing Gus Van Sant! We want to share our gifts and experiences, so we invite the downtown area to get to know us!”

Photo courtesy of Abiitan Mill City

Or as Moison succinctly puts it:  “We’re open! Visit us, dine with us, and move in!”


For more information, go to www.abiitan.org.

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