By JESSICA BENES for LONGMONT MAGAZINE
Balfour Senior Living associates take pride in their award-winning architecture and that they source art and artifacts from the community in which their facilities are built.
That is no different in Longmont, where the newest Balfour Senior Living Community opened in the middle of December.
The Longmont facility is “Western Equestrian-themed” in nature with ranch photos, old farm photos, maps of old downtown Longmont, theme-named rooms like “The Sugar Beet” dining room, and more.
“Our interior team does an extensive history at local libraries and the historical organization in the area,” said Louise Garrels, director of marketing and communications. “Many of the residents that are moving in are from the community. Sometimes those residents have unique artifacts from the area.”
The facility also exhibits a tie to the University of Colorado with memorabilia from its marching band and athletics. “We get retired professors and University of Colorado employees,” she said.
Rooms at Balfour have been available for pre-lease for over a year. They had a leasing center onsite until the facility opened, and are now offering virtual tours, which is the only way to see the interior at this time.
“That is the most fascinating thing. Our buildings are renowned for their architecture. We do our own interior design, and that’s what makes us unique in the world of senior living,” Garrels said. “There are no pastels, beige, no commercial, smelly chemicals. We have bright colors and the design always fits in with the community.”
By contrast, the downtown Denver Balfour facility has a more urban feeling, as those residents are used to living in the city. They live near Union Station and have a city-theme with vibrant colors and artifacts that tie into the local history. Then there’s one of the locations in Louisville, which has an “English-style” equestrian theme, which means no cowboy hats or spikes on their spurs.
Longmont is the ninth location of Balfour Senior Living. Their first location was in Louisville in 1999.
Balfour Senior Living Longmont offers independent living, assisted living and memory care.
They are completely licensed, which means couples do not have to live apart. The staff believe in “aging in place,” so couples can still live together in their apartment while one receives more aid than the other. Even if one of them is in memory care (who do need to live in a more secure location), they are still in the same building, so a spouse doesn’t have to leave the building to visit a loved one.
Their concierge staff makes sure dry cleaning is transported to and from residents, that residents are chauffeured safely to and from doctors appointments, and more.
Parfitt said that the apartments are way more than hospital rooms. They are beautiful, with lovely views of Longs Peak and the Front Range.
“We don’t have cooks, we have chefs at every location,” Garrels said, which includes a head chef, sous chef and pastry chef. “Bad food isn’t the Balfour standard. You can still get comfort food but it’s going to be the most beautiful and tasty mac and cheese you’ve ever had.” It’s more like a restaurant than a cafe.
“Each location has a different menu depending on the location,” added marketing coordinator Ann Parfitt, which includes seasonal, locally-sourced food from the area.
Then there’s the Life Enrichment staff, who are especially important during the pandemic. The staff is dedicated to making sure the residents are stimulated, maintain social interaction, and get exercise either outside or inside. As allowed by local or state ordinances, residents sometimes gather to take class or knit. Lately, those interactions have been more one on one or virtual. A life enrichment coach might sit outside the door doing games or activities with a resident in the room.
“The residents have really adapted to virtual zoom classes,” Parfitt said.
“No one anticipated that these baby boomers would figure it out so quickly,” Garrels added. “They’re Facetiming with kids and grandkids, using their smartphones. A bit of a silver lining in all of this is a bit of empowerment that is happening with our residents.”
Garrels said that this has been hard on residents and families that come to visit. Their staff have played a key role in making sure that residents can stay in touch, even if they don’t have technology.
Parfitt said that the Life Enrichment staff has also had local musicians come to play, virtually and in socially-distant outdoor activities.
That staff has been most active with the residents, keeping an eye on them, organizing one-on-one games, arranging for penpals with local schools, connecting the university students with them.
“Nothing is cookie cutter,” Garrels said. “This year of all years has thrown that at us. You can’t cookie cut it. We have a better quality of life here because of that.”
One group of residents loved to play on drums, so they created a group called the Balfour Boom that would show up on Pearl Street to perform. Another group liked to sing so they started a barbershop quartet.
“This is their home, and we’re taking care of them in their own home,” Garrels said.
Then there’s Project Linus, a 25-year old project started in the Denver area to provide blankets to children going through trauma of any sort. The founder’s mother now lives in Balfour Littleton. A Life Enrichment director introduced the idea of making blankets to her residents, and they’ve now made over 160 blankets. The project, “Balfour Blanketeers,” has spread to other facilities and Garrels said the goal now is to make 500 blankets. Residents can quilt, crochet or whatever they would like. However, one coordinator came up with a pattern that anyone could make, no need for sewing or even good eyesight.
Sometimes residents gather to work on the blankets, sometimes they make them while quarantined in their room, but it’s still something active to focus on.
Garrels said, “people don’t come here to die, they come here to live. We don’t know how long they’re going to live, but they’re going to live. They are amazing human beings with extraordinary backgrounds and still lots to contribute.”