Living at Joshua Arms: The Best of Both Worlds

Eye on LSSI, Fall 2008 (Download PDF Download PDF of entire publication)

Living at Joshua Arms Senior Residence in Joliet “is like Christmas,” says 79-year-old Tina Fabine. “I never had it so good. They have all activities here, and I don’t have to go grocery shopping,” she adds with a laugh.

Laughter comes easily to Tina, who has lived at Joshua Arms Senior Residence for 27 years. Initially, she was a resident of an independent living apartment in the high-rise building, which is owned and managed by Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI). Then, in August 2007, Tina, who is legally blind, transferred to one of the newly converted Supportive Living apartments.

The conversion of the apartments, which became available for occupancy in March 2007, was the result of a $6.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Fifty-six of Joshua Arms’ 242 one-bedroom apartments were converted to Supportive Living units. Residents in the program receive three meals daily plus snacks, as well as laundry and housekeeping, medication reminders, personal care assistance, and social programming and activities. The grant also enabled Joshua Arms to add a kitchen on the first floor, which is required for Supportive Living program sites.

Tina enjoys living in her apartment. She likes that aides come and help her with bathing and housecleaning, and do the laundry. “All I have to do is go down [to the dining room] and eat,” she says, although she notes that she is on a diet to lose weight. “They weigh us every month,” she adds, noting with pride that she has lost 16 pounds so far.

Tina explains that her eyes are bad and that she has arthritis and a bad back. So, Supportive Living “sounded like a good deal,” she says. “It sounded nice. I got it good [here].”

30 Years of Affordable Living for Seniors

Tina is one of many residents who enjoy living at Joshua Arms, which opened in April 1978 to provide affordable apartment living for seniors and people with disabilities. The apartments are equipped with electric stove and refrigerator, carpeting in the living room and bedroom, and mini-blinds. There’s also a 24-hour emergency response system and a daily check-in system. Residents pay for electricity, telephone and cable TV. The site is subsidized by HUD, so rent is based on the resident’s income. Joshua Arms is Medicaid-approved, and financial assistance is available.

But what makes Joshua Arms different from other senior housing — and more attractive — is its home-like atmosphere and emphasis on resident comfort. “Other places don’t have the hominess and camaraderie that we have here,” says Mary Jensen, site manager.

That camaraderie — and pride — is evident at night, when you’ll find long-time resident Victoria Gibson closing the blinds on the building’s first floor. It’s a task that needs to be done, and she likes to do it. “I keep the lobby plants watered and the fireplaces lit on the first floor,” she adds. “I enjoy doing that, and another woman also helps with the blinds. If they want me to do anything special, I’ll do it.”

Victoria, who has an apartment in the independent living section, moved to Joshua Arms 28 years ago after hearing about it while living in Michigan. “It’s the best place in the area,” she says, noting that she looked at other housing options before settling on Joshua Arms. “People can’t say they don’t have enough to do here, because we do. There’s always something going on.”

Rufus Ford, 93, is a relative newcomer to Joshua Arms, having moved here in 2007. “I never was without a job since I was 10 years old except for the last three years [after  becoming blind],” says Rufus proudly.

Rufus, who admits that he “knows more about the old times than new things,” started working on his father’s farm in Mississippi. During his lifetime, has held a variety of jobs, including working in a factory making crates and boxes, and picking cotton. He says, with a grin, that he’s been married four or five times. He has 10 children, eight of whom are still alive. One of his daughters and a granddaughter are housekeepers at Joshua Arms, and they helped him to move into Joshua Arms.

Rufus stayed in another residence community before coming to Joshua Arms, but, he says, “I really like this one. It has very good food. And so far, I haven’t been around a better group [of people]. They are mighty good to me.”

Enabling Seniors to ‘Age in Place’

With the opening of its Supportive Living units, Joshua Arms has a big advantage in serving seniors who, as they age, may require more assistance to live. Because it offers both types of housing, seniors are able to “age in place” and do not have to move out of their communities when they need assistance. Joan Curl, 76, is one such resident.

Joan, who has lived in the Joliet area since 1996, learned about Joshua Arms from her son-in-law, who was a construction worker on the building. She moved into her first apartment at Joshua Arms in 1997. Then, about the time Joshua Arms began its renovations, Joan needed assisted living, so she moved to another facility. “I made the mistake of moving out,” she says. But now, she’s back and happy about it.

“The room is good-sized,” she says about the renovated apartment, “and that bathroom. I fell in love with it when I saw it!”

The bathroom and kitchen areas were substantially changed in the renovation to make them more accessible to people in wheelchairs. The bathroom has a roll-in shower and grab bars, and the kitchen cabinets are designed for people who use wheelchairs and walkers.

Joan says the food is good, and she can still get her own snacks thanks to the microwave, refrigerator and corn-popper she has in her kitchen. She notes that there are lots of activities. “Debbie [the activities director] keeps us busy. We have all sorts of things to do.”

“This is the nicest place to live,” says Susan Heyden, 64, resident of an independent living apartment. She lived with her sister for two years and then rented an apartment with another woman for a couple of months, “but I really wanted to live by myself.”

“My sister and I looked at a couple places,” says Susan, who is on public aid because of health issues. “One of them didn’t have an opening for three years but suggested Joshua Arms. We came right over and liked what we saw.” After a two-month wait, Susan was able to move in, choosing an apartment with a northern view because it is cooler and good for her primary activity: painting.

Susan, a self-taught artist, works in acrylics and some mixed media (e.g., pastels and pencils with acrylics). The bedroom of her unit is set up as an art studio, and artwork adorns the walls.

Living at Joshua Arms has many advantages for Susan. “My health is very bad,” she says. “And I have [Supportive Living] right here [if I need it]. The different independent living places [that my sister and I visited] offered just that, no assisted living. Here, you can go to one of the Supportive Living floors. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to live any place else,” she adds.

Amenities Make the Difference

“Our amenities set us apart from other senior housing sites,” says Jensen.

Transportation is one amenity. Joshua Arms has its own bus with regularly scheduled trips to shopping and other sites on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. On Sunday, the bus takes residents to three churches. Residents can also call to request a PACE bus. There’s also an on-site country store where residents can purchase items, such as paper products, snacks, eggs, milk and soup. A café is located in the store and usually offers hearty soups or chili for lunch five days a week. “It is a great place to socialize,” says Jensen.

Other on-site amenities include a laundry that is open 24/7, a beauty parlor and a library with computers. There’s also a laundry room on the third floor for Supportive Living residents.

Finally, Joshua Arms has two full-time social workers for residents in the independent units and another social worker for the Supportive Living residents.

“They work closely with tenants to make sure their needs are met and will help with paperwork, such as taxes,” says Jensen. “They also look for opportunities to help residents save money — such as utility programs for seniors. All in all, it’s a great place to live.”

For more information on Joshua Arms in Joliet, call 815/727-6401.