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Bayard Senior Center Interview

(Sections in bold type are audio excerpts.)

I am Diane, and I live in Bayard, and I have a huge house. I raised a large family, I have 18 grandchildren, 5 great, and have a good house.

I forgot to say I have 4 grandsons, 2 great granddaughters. So I am rich.

I’m Mary Alice and live here in Bayard, north of the Catholic church. I’ve got more room than I need too. I’m 76.

I’m the youngster then, I’m just 70!

When my daughter got to be 63, then when I got to feel my age. I did.

I’m Chris Cook, and instructor of the class at Iowa State in the housing program that’s looking at housing needs of older people. Most of these folks except for Mary Yearns are students in the class. They are learning about housing needs and are particularly interested in ways for older people to stay in their home and what makes it easy. First we need to learn about what makes it tough to stay home. And we are interested in community and what it provides. You are very brave and gracious to let us come and answer questions.

I’m Mary Yearns, and an Extension Specialist at ISU. Chris and I are in the same department. Just this past week I was in Chicago. Extension has designed a Home for All Ages, a three room house, with a kitchen, living room, and bathroom. It has universal design features in it, a house that works well for young families and it also has the features that help you stay in the home as long as possible. No step entrances and bathrooms that work. We just took this to Chicago and showed it at a huge conference at the National Council on Aging. For professionals that work with older people at senior sites and social service agencies for older people. We had a lot of fun showing some of the new features in the home, electronic toilet seat lifter that goes up and down, electronic faucets, soft bathtub. A shower with a lift off seat, all kinds of gadgets in the kitchen and living room that make it easier to stay in your own home.

How about the shelves? Do you have pullout shelves?

Pull out drawers. No shelves under the counter. All pull out drawers. With nice big U shaped handles so you can get your whole hand in it or use your little finger.

I would use my toe.

Carol has helped demonstrate this home. We have taken this house around the state, to the state fair. Not this exhibit, but another one that we have had at the Guthrie County Fair.

My name is Amanda and my major is Family Services and a minor in Gerontology. What are some struggles for you in your home? Some things you would like to change?

I’ve found, I worked for Public Health for 15 years. Now I have arthritis. I’ve found in my own home, it’s reaching down. Handicapped people, they had this home that they had a big turntable on their countertop. So they could reach out and get the spices, things that they use every day.

We have a handicap stool in our home, and a higher stool would help. You don’t have to bend your knees so much. (Windows WAV 349 KB) (Mac AU 174 KB)

You would like the electronic toilet seat where you could ride up and down.

I’ll tell my husband!

I’ve noticed with my husband, the seat is getting taller and taller all the time.

So it is the knees that are bothering you?


Anything in the kitchen in particular, do you have a round thing on your counter?

Yes, I have one. Then we have a larger shower. We have a daughter in a wheelchair and sometimes I take care of her. You can just wheel her in.

I’m getting arthritis now. I don’t like to reach up. ...

Did you arrange your kitchen in a different way?

No. Still stretching. My husband used to do all that for me, but now he is gone and I have to do it myself. I keep a ladder handy for that.

Do you get to the top shelves that way?


Are your houses one story, like ranch style? What about laundry?

Mine is one. But I have a basement.

Is your laundry on the main floor?

Yes, in the bedroom.

I have to go up 14 steps.

They say that is good exercise though.

What do you have to climb steps for Grace?

I’m Diane. Paintings. I could bring them down, but I’ve got small grandchildren that come and so I keep everything upstairs. If I want to go upstairs and paint I do.

Tell them what you are doing now.

I’m stripping paint. It’s all over my hand. I forget to put the gloves on.

Where do you do that?

Out in the garage. My husband starts the wood stove and gets it hot.

Is your bedroom on the main floor?


But it is mainly storage upstairs?


You don’t have to go up there?

I go up about every day.

Your laundry is on the first floor?


Is that something that you moved there or was it there forever? The laundry.

No, it was there.

I’m Justin. This is a small community, do you walk or drive around? Are you within walking distance of the main street?

Yes. I’m two blocks. I get out and walk.

Is that close enough for you to go to the grocery store?

Yes. And the post office.

I have a two bedroom home, but I just use one, my husband is deceased and my kids are clear up in Minnesota.

I think for elderly people, what is missing is, the nursing home does take meals around but they will only take so many. There needs to be more taken out.

Do you have a nursing home?

Yes, a nice one.

Another lady called me yesterday and asked me to go with her. I said if you don’t make it, don’t ask me. They like to see us come down.

And there is 3 churches here. It’s a nice community.

Where do you go to buy groceries?

Here in Bayard.

My husband was raised here and he can remember when they had 4 grocery stores, 4 gas stations. Now there is 1 of each. They don’t have a cafe anymore.

They serve meals from the tavern. They will deliver too.

Yes, my friend has been getting them all winter.

I have real good neighbors.

I do too. They look after me like I’m a kid. I did take a key over to the Stones and told them if you don’t see a light on in the morning, come and check on me. There have been so many deaths around here, it makes you think. (Windows WAV 349 KB) (Mac AU 174 KB)

Do you know anybody in senior housing? I wonder how that is laid out. If it works out well.

I think it does, we have three senior ... here in Bayard. They have filled two.

I was going to go down if I could sell my acreage, but I didn’t get it sold so I will just stay.

There is 1 and 2 bedroom in these senior citizen [housing] and the bathrooms are all close and their cupboards are down low. They need the drawers to pull out. I think it would be nice to start building those apartments and putting those in there for seniors.

Did you ever think about moving to one?

Yes. Because our home is too big.

I won’t say that I won’t move, but I’m not going to until I have to. Because I can hire someone to come in. (Windows WAV 349 KB) (Mac AU 174 KB)

That’s nice. I have two neighbors that have a nurse come once a week, and a housekeeper.

Grace, you said you were thinking about moving too but you didn’t sell?

No, I didn’t. So I will stay put. I thought it would be easier for my kids if something happens to me.

Get everything in one spot, that’s what I say.

And we have a nice nursing home. I have a lot of friends there. I’ll go when the time comes. I won’t live on the kids because they all work. That isn’t right. Used to be our folks didn’t have nursing homes. Because everybody said they took care of us, we have to take care of them, that was the object, wasn’t it? (Windows WAV 349 KB) (Mac AU 174 KB)

So none of you would want to move in with your children?

They all work. Not that they don’t love me, but I think I would be a burden.

Do they live near here?

No, they live in Minnesota. My daughter graduated from Coon Rapids, but that’s a bigger place.

Would you not want to leave the community anyway?

I don’t know what I want to do. Whatever happens.

Tell them what you told me about being 88.

About my daughter? When my daughter turned 63, and I’ll be 88, I said I know I forget and do crazy things, I didn’t know how to act, I’ve never been this old before! So I’m just taking what comes. I hear a lot of people, kids younger than I am, saying they forget too. I spend more time looking for something. Then when I find it it’s always where I put it. But I love to crochet. My neighbor came home one night from work in Jefferson, and said how come Grace has a light? Is she sick? I was sound asleep in my recliner. They say laughing in the best medicine, so let’s keep laughing.

How do you all do with lawn care or cleaning inside?

I don’t mow the yard. My daughter threatened to have the neighbor run over the lawn mover so I couldn’t use it so I quit.

The only thing I don’t do anymore is wallpaper, I’m scared to get up on the ladder. But I have girls that come in. I have 6 girls that live close by. All nine of them, but one got away. He’s a doctor in Oklahoma, so I had no choice. We have been real lucky.

So you might think about living with one of those children?

No. We have home health aids, and they can keep you in your home forever. Say you got cancer, we have hospice volunteers, which I have done. So if someone wants to go somewhere, I volunteer like that. Here in Guthrie County, we must have 8-9 home health aids.

There are 14. Because we just did an inservice for them last month. They were all together.

I was one for about 5 years.

Mary you said you wouldn’t think about moving at all. What is your reason for wanting to stay in your home?

I like my home. I don’t have any family. So I want to stay in my home as long as I can. I do my lawn, I have three lots. (Windows WAV 349 KB) (Mac AU 174 KB)

I still raise a little garden.

I do too.


I pull weeds.

How long have you lived in Bayard?

22 years.

In the same home? How old is your home?

I don’t know. But we gutted it and did all the rerouting. 22 years ago. Now we have a bedroom downstairs. My husband has heart problems. So then our washer and dryer is upstairs and everything is handy.

So when you were remodeling you did most of those things?

Yes, we thought about it.

Where did you live before that?

We lived near Bagley. For 21 years on the farm.

...How about you others?

We moved here in 1950. Mine’s 11 1/2 acres so we come from a farm, smokehouse, chickens. We were both from farms. It’s been 11 years now. This winter I was glad I was not milking a cow and gathering eggs.

I’ve lived here ... years. I’m not from the same home. 38 in one, then we moved just a couple of years ago. In a large house, which was silly, after all the kids were gone.

A lot of people do that actually, they have been waiting all that time for room.

I used to baby-sit kids too.

Raising the next generation.

Yes. Now they are all married and come to see us when they are back. I still call them my kids.

My name is Devina. My question is would you like to see anything changed in your community?

I love flowers.

In the summer there is a program for kids. But there is really not a whole lot for the kids to do. Baseball.

I used to go skating, that’s not there any more.

That used to draw quite a few of the little ones to skate. I don’t know what happened to that.

In several of the small towns around here...used to be a business who came and they would rent roller skates, then one night of the week in each town there was skating. That was still on when we came here. It would be a community affair, sometimes churches would bring food, popcorn, and kids and families came. Probably it’s been about 10 years. What happened was the business went out of business.

What about services for you folks? Are there things you wish were available in the community?

We go down to the library every Tuesday afternoon and play cards. Anybody can come and play that wants to.

About how many come?

Two tables usually. We do have that.

Is this building used?

We have a very nice library in town.

This building is used a lot.

They have dances, wedding receptions.

They teach one night.

How long has it been here, this community center?

15 years.

I still drive, if I want to do something.

How far do you go?

Carroll, vicinity. I don’t drive in Des Moines.

I can if I know where to go.

I have as far as the Vet’s Hospital, but I don’t think I could do it anymore.

When my kids lived there I didn’t think anything about it. Now I’d be scared to death. They would run me in the ditch and take her clothes off. I’m a chicken, I know.

Where do you go for medical services?

Guthrie or Jefferson. I go for a check up every year.

You have a big house. Do you feel...?

Not yet. About 5 years ago I was still working and I left a client’s home and another lady came to get me. I ...in my car. So ever since then my husband vacuums. Then I go around and pick up. If I run into difficulty, my daughters will come and help. But I have a son that is mildly retarded, he’s 50. I always said if I outlive my husband, I would take him and we would go to senior citizen’s apartment and I could teach him all the things. This is why I say I would go to the senior citizen’s. My husband has said he would go too.

He rides his moped all around town.

When we moved into this large home, I got rid of a lot, give it to the girls. I just want to see them have it now.

You keep all the areas in your house open now?

Yes. All the grandkids go around, to the family. It’s nice for them.

Do you have any complaints or issues from the senior citizen home that you want to say? You said you would rather have the drawers pull out.

And the stools aren’t the handicap stools. I have been in some where the stools are higher. I think they need a grab bar instead of putting, it looks like a walker that is put around the stool. I think they need something on the wall. And the top cupboard down low. There’s a lot that can’t reach it there. Some have those...

...we have ours with no taxpayer money whatsoever. Where do you want to start? This building right here, there used to be two old buildings here, a bank that was deteriorating. We thought of a way to get title to them and the county came up and took the residue, the old bricks. That didn’t cost much. Then we had the senior citizen housing. Which ...

That’s the Farmer’s Home units down here?

Yes. ... 8 plex apartments. We had those for quite a while. I was handling the renting of them and was tired of that. Anyway, them guys came along... he brought 3 friends with him and they were very frank, they were looking for a place for a tax shelter. So we sold our interest to them for $50,000. That was back when Jimmy Carter was president and interest rates were high. We put that money in interest for 15% and had $65,000. Then we got some people to put in some donations. Then we had the Lutheran Brotherhood match funds. At that time they were matching $2500 and they did that. We raised from different things. We had all kinds of fundraisers and got $12,500. I can’t remember if that included the $2500, I think it did. I don’t know how we did it, I’ve been in on so many deals I can’t remember exactly what we did. Then the town, the city, had $25,000 left over from federal revenue sharing and I conned them into giving that. Otherwise, if you want to call that taxpayer money, I supposed it was, but no local tax money. We still have the ...senior citizen housing, a non-profit corporation which owns, the title is in the city because we don’t want to pay taxes on it. I was mayor for the time...took the money out of the revenue sharing. It’s been 13 years, 1984. We just lucked out on everything. The air conditioning, perfect. The one down there at that fairgrounds, they put the units on the roof, now it leaks and makes noise. ...the air conditioners at the same time. It wasn’t anything because we were smart, it was, and we have two furnaces in there, they work perfectly and you can’t hear them. There’s a lot of luck in these. At the same time that we were building this...I don’t know if they have $25-28,000 more dollars in theirs, but they had to go through a architect and the whole thing. When there is government money involved, it took a lot of their money away and the same fellow built this that built the ... ones. If we wanted a change, we would say that doesn’t look right and he would change it. But Exhira, it took Congress to get a change. But the start, back to the improvements. A fellow by the name of Artie Newell was the director of the Farmer’s Home Admin. We had been friends for a long time and he called one day and said,...we have a ...and can’t get it off the ground, would you be willing to help. He explained that the government financed this housing and said the object was to move people out of their homes and make more room for couples or families. The old people into nice apartments. I said I’ll try. So ... also mayor. So we started promoting and I sold the land for him, ... should sponsor. I don’t know how much money we had to raise, all we had to furnish was the site. ...again one day, Mr. Calvert, the first one is down close to the school, he called and said we own a piece of land, could you use it for the home? It wasn’t quite enough, we had to buy a little more. The adjoining property. FHA would finance for ... years. So we got that. It was full practically the day it opened. So then there seemed to be a need for more. Then we built one down on this street. Then there still was more need and we built one down the highway, then one by the nursing home. Then later we built the 8-plex apartment. Which we didn’t luck out on that. That has been an attraction to bums. These others were for seniors. Crud, that’s what they are.

How many units was that one?

8. Four 2-bedroom and 4 three bedroom, I’m not sure. So at the time we built...we formed a corporation...senior citizen housing, inc. We could go back even farther. This was in 1966. In 1963 we formed a corporation, non-profit, and built the nursing home. That was run by the corporation for several years, then sold to a private corp. They sold 3-4 times and we spent $240,000 to build it and the last time it sold it was over a million. That’s what inflation has done. Started out at 39 to bid and one of the owners increased it to 50. ...it’s a different corporation at the time, then it went out of existence when they sold. The individuals that put the money in to start it doubled their money after a few years. I think I came in a $1000 and got $2600. I was one of the poorer ones in that deal. Mr. and Mrs. Hughes were the administrators and the place was very successful. At one time they had 108 people on a waiting list. Because nobody else had it.

And it was the only skilled facility in the county?

I guess so. I don’t know how skilled it is.

As far as Medicare and stuff.

I don’t know. But then the doctor in Guthrie Center said you should have that in Guthrie Center, so they built one. Then ... built one, then Stuart built one, then Coon Rapids. Mr. Thomas was a very fine man, lots of money, so he built one and gave it to the city of Coon Rapids. It’s the only municipal nursing home in the state of Iowa. It’s administered by 3 trustees, but the city owns it, they don’t pay tax or rent. Yet they charge the same as here. But I think they have more facilities than we have. But you see our 108 diminished...

Do you have any vacancies now?

They come and go. A lot of people die in nursing homes. One time you talk to them they say they are full and another time they have 2-3 beds. But they run pretty close to capacity.

And it’s not just Bayard residents. They are from a wide area.

I’m not involved anymore and don’t want to be. But apparently they have quite a turnover of employees and administrators. I think it’s a good outfit now. ... There was a big scandal a few years ago, a outfit from Texas bought it ... they bought 41 nursing homes, and their financing was something your would expect out of Texas. Some way, it changed hands again, they own the one in Panora too. There’s another one I forgot to tell you. They built one called Craft Care Center.

That was a private one.

It still is. They weren’t involved with this but they do own it now. They have changed it now, they change the name, it’s called Bayard Nursing and Rehab Center. The Panora was the same. Craft was privately owned and still is, but they changed the name. Guthrie Center’s is Old Homestead. It’s owned locally. I think non-profit. Been run very well. The same administrator for years.

Do you live in your own home?


How do you explain that it is good for other people to move to a nursing home, but you don’t?

I didn’t say that. I don’t think it’s good for anybody to go to a nursing home. We shouldn’t have them.

You started off by talking about Farmer’s Home administrator thinking it was good to move out of the big homes and move to a smaller place.

Different people have different situations. As you can see, I’m not very mobile. We have ... but I have a swimming pool next to it. I haven’t been using it for a couple years but it is there. We have an attached garage, I drive in, get out of the car, roll into the house. I can come out of the house and roll to the swimming pool. Everything is accessible. For me, no, it wouldn’t be at all practical for me to live in one of these apartments. But some widow, that is living in a 4 bedroom home, it’s not practical for her to stay their either. Utilities would be cheaper, it frees up housing for younger ones. It worked that way too for quite a while.

You said that the first ones that were built were filled quickly. We have heard some ideas that maybe there are vacancies, and not the older people had taken advantage because they weren’t filling up. Is that true?

Somewhat. After they rent to seniors, they rent to younger ones. I think the one down on the highway has been filled with town bums and everything you can think of. They haven’t had seniors all the time, but generally...apartments. ...

That one in the apartment building because they are low rent. Low resource.

There was one fellow managing that apartment house and he said I don’t mind that we don’t get any rent out of these people but I hate it to deliver the check to allow them to live there. He claimed that some of these people had such a low income that the government actually paid for them to live there. I don’t know if it is true. I do know that they have varying rent. Then let’s see. You know about the library?

Only that the ladies that talked to us an hour ago all headed there.

Are they part of the program?

Just about their own housing. They didn’t tell us about the story about the library.

I meant that I hoped my story would jive with theirs.

They didn’t discuss that. They didn’t want to move to FHA housing, they wanted to stay in their own homes even if they were much bigger.

Everybody does. As long as they can.

Someone asked about community facilities and they mentioned the library was one they used.

We raised money through different events. We got some grant money for that from Burlington Northern, we had a contact through a lady. This is the end of the BN east branch line. That hauls the beans to Mexico. So I got in touch with those and we got $10,000 out of them. Then my wife and I gave $20,000, I don’t know if you would call that a grant or not. Then Peter Keywith, from the construction firm said whatever was left, he would take. That was $22,600. There were a lot of people that gave $5000 and less. ... We don’t have any kids...trophies and stuff over a period of time. We would build a room if we could have a place to store some of this stuff. It was built locally by a contractor, Gene Phelps. He built it and I doubt if he made a profit but he did build it. ...absolutely not a penny attached to that library. It was chosen as the fiber optics site in the county. There is on in each county. That the story of the library. Now they had to raise some money to put the equipment and cameras for the fiber optics. Been raising money for that now. I got a hold of a banker and they pledged $10,000. I wrote ...

Just as an aside because this is a small town thing, the company that constructed the library has since constructed two other libraries in small towns. And used much the same plan. The people came and saw the library and built it. And several new school buildings in small towns. It’s been an interesting thing.

I’m glad you brought that up because when we starting this thing and I got to be the Lion’s sponsor, then we sold it to other Lions Clubs. The senior buildings in Scranton, Bagley, Guthrie Center, we had people come in here from all over the state looking at these buildings, senior citizen’s homes. I don’t know if they are all Lions Club members or not but there are a rash of those buildings scattered all over the state. But it seemed to me that the federal revenue sharing was the best thing, through the government. I can’t putt my finger on it, but I was driving around town here and I could show you more than 30 homes that were built in the 50s and 60s. Now in the last 10 years we have had maybe 2 houses built. Why? I can’t figure it out. If you know, tell me. Yet during that same period of time Des Moines was going down the tubes. They had nothing. There was a metro, nothing. Then all of a sudden the suburbs exploded. They lived there, built homes. Part I suspect is the people that built homes here had the money. Retirees and the people building in West Des Moines don’t have the money, they are doing it through credit. Of course...city banks...country banks. The banking attitude in those days...chain banks, interstate banks. Let them come into Iowa, they will fill the state. But they kept, Norwest moved in from Minnesota and they are so big now they have a restriction on how big they can get. I can’t believe at what they have helped the state of Iowa. I don’t know whether people are changing their attitudes or not. And the thing of it is, this bank across the street, and all the rest of them made more money last year than they have in history. Yet 20 years ago they were fighting and they wanted to keep everybody out, you mustn’t progress. It’s terrible. It’s happened right under their noses and they aren’t smart enough to figure it out.

Just as an aside, most of the banks in the county which would account for a fair amount of housing financing, are very local banks. There are either local banks like this one, how many branches, 4, but they are in this area.

They wouldn’t be interested in the rural.

So you don’t have the regional banks here?

No. Financing, anything is hard to come by.

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Contact: Mary Yearns