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Guthrie Center Senior Center Interview
(Sections in bold type are audio excerpts.) 

Only thing I can think of that we really need is county nurses do come out and check, but sidewalk shoveling in the winter, and the mowing in the summer.  

I'm Leona Sorenson and we live 2 blocks from here. Not a real large house, basement and upstairs is all furnished. I think our biggest problem is we don't have a place to put a shower on the main floor, and I don't get in and out of the bathtub anymore at all. It's getting to the place where we need someone to vacuum. And we hire our sidewalk scooped. (Windows WAV 349 KB) (Mac AU 174 KB) I think that's about it. We both are a little unable.  

I'm Al, and what she said goes for me. We live in the same house and like I said, window washers.  

That's an impossibility.  

Can you tell us why it is an impossibility? Why it is tough?  

The insides, to clean the storms and the main windows. You can't reach that. Neither one able to climb the ladder to get up to wash it.  

And reaching like this is hard.  

I have arthritis and it's just about impossible. He don't breathe good, so it is not good for him either. I think we are getting to the place where we are going to have some assistance.  

I'm Keith Dowder, I'm married, we have two houses, I maintain mine, she maintains hers. I just live about a block north of here. I am able to shovel my walks, I do my own laundry at the laundry mat. I help my boy farm when he needs me. I go dancing once in a while. Far as I know, I will be 75 years old October 14. I have had very little hospitalization, doctor bills. Just the other day I put my finger in a little place and had 9 stitches in it, but I survived.  

I'm Martha Prescott and I live here on 6th Street. I always said when I go to school I'd like to live in that house, there I am. ...I have a work day the 20th of March. My house is all on one level, washer, dryer upstairs, someday I'll have to have help cleaning the house. I have high blood pressure.  

I'm Don Whitney. I live about 8 miles east of here. Mt East. I'm not as old as Bertha, but I'm older than Keith. I like it out in the country, I've lived there since 1951. (Windows WAV 805 KB) (Mac AU (403 KB) When I come to town, I met my own neighbors on their farms. ...I do a little farming yet. My second wife, I lost my first wife 10 years ago. She was ... for 3 1/2 years. In which time I did most of the work except I hired a lady to come in once a week and clean. We built the house in the early 70s and part of the bathroom I've never used, I've got a shower in the basement. I've never used the tub. When my first wife died, it was easier for her, I helped her down the basement steps. She preferred the shower. But I don't have any health problems. I'm going to stay out on the farm.  

Is there a big yard to maintain?  

Oh yeah, a big yard.  

My husband's response to that is to buy a big John Deere mower and he swears I'm going to learn to drive it.  

I've got a rider and a couple of push mowers. I need the exercise really. But they think itís bad that I don't use the rider.  

You do all yours with a push mower?  

Self propelled. But I'm walking. You do get some exercise. But someday in the next 1-2 years I may fix up the rider. When I'm 100.  

I'm Gerald Cline, I live 6 miles south of GC, I've been retired going on 10 years, I was 73 last month and I have a pretty modern home, have a friend that takes care of the house and I do the yard work. I donít really need that much help. Getting by on my health. Knee and back operations, bladder operations and quite a few things in the last 10 years, but I'm getting along all right.  

I'm ...Purdy, and Skip says he is 73, I'm 79 and just a kid. I'm one of them guys who meets him going up and down the road.  

He's my brother in law.  

In 1980 we built a new house in GC and the wife was always coming to town so I got her in town and I go to the farm. So in the later years I've gotten rid of all my livestock so I do a little farming like that. I cut wood when the weather is good, things like that. Health, I've had an operation or two in 7 years, hernia and hemorrhoids, but basically I've gotten along good. When I wake up on the morning I feel like getting up and doing something, then it's going to be a good day.  

Several of you mentioned how old you are, can you quickly share how old you are?  

82 1/2.  




I'm Chris Cook. (Introductory remarks). The students have been thinking of questions t hey would like to ask you. They are most interested in housing, what it takes to stay in your home. Some of you have said some of those things. They will tell you their name and ask one question that you might answer about your housing.  

I'm Mary Yearns. I've worked with Carol Smith over the years with housing problems. Just this past week we took our 3 room exhibit, the Home for All Ages, to Chicago in a 30 foot truck and set it up for 2000 people from all over the country to see many of the design ideas and assistive devices that we have in this home. The audience was mainly professional people that work in senior centers or social service agencies. Giving them rides on the electronic toilet seat lifter, demonstrating environmental control units where you can control lights or appliances from one location. A soft bathtub, lots of innovative products in the home.  

I'm Joanne. What really interests me about your situation is that you seem to be so happy with your home the way it is. I'm wondering how long you have been there, and did you think about planning it ahead of time so you would have everything on one level?  

I've lived there about 5 years, and had lived on 12th St. The house was old and the bathtub had legs on the floor. I had a garden space. I haven't been getting out much now, my legs bother me, so I moved to this big house, it had an open stairway down into the living room and tub had the legs on the floor. I remodeled and have the shower and tub all together. Then I have the washer and dryer on level. That's one reason I like the house. I like the location because it's not too far from downtown. I can walk if I have to. (Windows WAV 710 KB) (Mac AU 355 KB)  

Is that a one story home?  

No, a two story house.  

But you kind of live on the lower floor?  

Yes. I have a grandson that lives with me too. He doesn't eat with me much, but he sleeps there. I have a daughter who teaches art in Guthrie and she stays some nights. Night before, they were both there.  

Do you have a bedroom on the first floor?  

Yes, right in the center of the house. It doesn't have a window, but it is nice. I recently had the whole house rewired because it wasn't good. I do have ... other flowers that I enjoy, that's why I liked the house.  

Did you have help with the remodel?  

Yes. They wired from the basement to the upstairs, back and front porch.  

Did you come up with what you wanted remodeled or did you have someone help you lay it out?  

I have a son that lives in Des Moines and he knew what I needed. I talked to him first and had him help me. I have 5 children all together. One lives in Guthrie, Des Moines, Oklahoma City, Ames, Nevada.  

Did you son help with the maintenance on the home?  

Yes. I have a snow blower so he takes care of that in the winter. Also, he helps in the garden with the tiller. He helps quite a little bit. Sometimes if I need something like changing the light bulb, I talk him into that. And my grandson. He had a disagreement in the home where he lived and so I told him if he wanted to live with me he could. So he did. As far as my health goes, I do have a problem with that now, but if nothing else, I have arthritis. But I've never been in the hospital for an operation, no broken bones.  

When you get groceries, does someone help you with that?  

I have a friend that helps me get them. I did years ago when my boys were small, but I don't now because the highways scare me. Especially the gravel road, coming up a hill, I'm afraid I might meet someone on the other side.  

So your transportation is through family and friends?  


I'm Devina. Have you ever considered moving from your community or house, why or why not?  

No. ...make it wheelchair accessible, that was a few years ago, but I miss seeing that shower stuff they have here.  

What kinds of things did you do?  

We put new rug in the front room, no pad, glued it down. Redid the complete bathroom. But still have the tub and I don't like to get in and out of it. They are slick on the bottom.  

Did you have to modify the doorways at all?  

Yes. Made a straight-in entrance through the front entryway.  

How about in the kitchen?  

No, that was pretty well done.  

Would you be interested in modifying your bathroom again to get a shower?  

No, I don't think so. Cost too much the first time.  

How long have you lived here, any of you?  

I've been at my place for 47 years.  

We've lived in our house since 1976. The big problem is the washer and dryer and shower are in the basement. We do have rails on both sides of the steps and that helps a lot. I wouldn't consider moving. When I move, I'll probably be moved into a nursing home. As long as we can get in and out. (Windows WAV 605 KB) (Mac AU 605 KB)  

Are you thinking about remodeling to get the shower, washer/dryer upstairs?  

We have tried to figure out a way, but it's impossible. The bathtub we don't use, we still go up and down the steps. Which we are able to do now, but for how long? I don't know.  

Do you carry things up and down?  

The clothes, we can throw them down. But he thinks he can do it. He thinks I shouldn't go up and down the steps. But I sure wouldn't move out of that house.  

I've lived here in town 7-8 years. I don't have a fancy place but it's good enough for an old farmer. I donít have a shower, but someday maybe I'll have one. I have a small 5 room house. And a nice, two car garage. I have a new car and new pick up and I put them in every night. (Windows WAV 605 KB) (Mac AU 605 KB)  

...where would it be?  

Guthrie County, there are only two full sized grocery stores. GC and Panora. Stuart has one but it's in Adair County. Some of these smaller towns, you can buy basic things, but I think that limits places where a person could move. If you were to move to town.  

How long have you lived here?  

We moved...retired from the farm that I was born on, and we moved to town in '67. Over 20 years. I did everything there was to do on the farm. Worked in the fields, made hay, everything. ...nice house. Rode a horse to high school, played 4 years on the basketball team here. I only missed one quarter in four years. Guy took my horse and said aren't you cold? I said no, he said look at your horse's nose. There was icicles.  

How did you happen to get into the house? You said this is the house you wanted to live in when you were younger.  

I was in town one day, we were going to build a new house. We had torn down the old house, had the lumber. I found out that this house was for sale and the bank had it so I went to the banker and he said you want to look at it and I said yeah. I went up, told my husband, he came in that night, and we bought the house. ... My parents were farmers, my father was killed on their farm. My mother lived to be 93.  

Do you have a two story home?  

I don't go in the basement, everything is upstairs.  

It's one level?  

I have 2 good sized bedrooms, small bathroom...bathtub. I crawl on my hands and knees and get myself over.  

That's the way I get out! (Windows WAV 605 KB) (Mac AU 605 KB)  

If you could make some changes that would make it easier in your home, is there something?  

Just the shower.  

So you kitchen is easy to get around?  

...washer/dryer is on the back porch. Catches all the dust and dirt so I don't bring it in. It's handy.  

What I'm hearing is most of you would not consider moving?  

I probably would get an apartment, not a house...get so I can't drive. Right now I can drive to the grocery store, I've got everything the people have in town so I have no reason to move. (Windows WAV 605 KB) (Mac AU 605 KB)  

Do you have city water Skip?  

No. I have spring water, soft water. I've got rural water that comes out of a well. I dug the wells about 5 years ago. ... It's a good water supply.  

Skip, if you needed to move to a place where you could get more help is there anyplace in the area you would want to move?  

I think a lot of people, when they get to where they can't handle their house, they move out to the Homestead if here is room. But there is a waiting list most of the time.  

What is the Homestead?  

Most would prefer to stay home as long as they can. When it comes to the place where you need care then I would go to the nursing home, it's a fine program.  

But you also commented that there is intermediate housing.  

Yes, in Jefferson and Perry, Winterset. It's a complex you go in and they have care to help you do most anything. Regular dining room.  

They do the cooking and washing.  

But you are not too inclined to go there?  

Youíve got to remember, we grew up pretty daggone independent. We were always able to take care of ourselves. So it's hard to push us around. You are going to have that mind. As far as my house is concerned, it's a 2 story, basement with a 2 car garage, family room and shower. We have a wide stairs that goes up and made that especially wide so if there comes a time that we can't get up and down, we could put a chair lift and get up and down that way. We had that in mind when we built the house. Everything can't be perfect. Nothing's forever. (Windows WAV 605 KB) (Mac AU 605 KB)  

You don't anticipate all the things that might happen. I think one thing to take into consideration is most houses have at least 2-3 steps to get up into the house. It's very easy to build a ramp over those steps. (Windows WAV 605 KB) (Mac AU 605 KB)  

My name is Kim and I'm from Taiwan. My major is HDFS and minor is in Gerontology. Do you have any room in your house that you no longer use? What happened to the room now?  

I've got 2 rooms that I could sell. I just use my bedroom and front room and dining is all together. When it is cold, I have a register on my front porch where I have the washer/dryer open so I don't freeze out there.  

Whenever we got any room, the wife fills it up. No problem there.  

We may have extra rooms, then the kids come home and you don't have any room.  

Do like I do. Shove them into a trailer. They have heat and stuff out there.  

We have a finished basement and I have bedroom, bathroom and a big room and storeroom and kitchen. The most we use unless we have company is just to go down and take a shower and do the washing. That's about it down there. There's a TV down there, davenport, chairs, carpet, it's nice. But we just don't use it much anymore. But when company or kids come and they can go down and play and the bedroom gets used, I've got a hide-a-bed that I pull out. But we don't get that much family anymore because have kids that live around here anymore. That's more or less a place to take a shower and do the washing. There is storage down there. We have under the steps, we can store canned stuff. Lots of shelves, couple closets, and they are all full.  

I have what I call two living rooms in my house and I donít use either one very much except at Christmas or I have card parties. I just don't need it.  

Someone mentioned that their son has a farm? Then you mentioned that the kids moved away. Do you have a lot of family that is around or did everyone's children move away?  

My children are gone. I have three, in Colorado, and Atlanta. His boy is in Nashville.  

I have no grandkids around. I've got 22 great grandchildren but they are not around here.  

Very small percent of the children stay on the farm. I've got 6 and none of them farm.  

Farming is altogether different than when we did it 50-60 years ago. Because you go out with 200, 180, even 100 and you could make a living on it. Now you wouldnít pay the gas bill. They have so many hidden things that have come into farming that it costs so much more money.  

It's more taxes than what our parents had, it's hard to believe. Things like that have grown over the years. People didn't hardly have insurance. Now that is one of our big items, insure yourself.  

Then they had cows, chickens, that took care of the table basically, then raised the cattle and pigs to carry on the operation. The main thing was in those days was that you kept busy. If you kept doing something, you were selling labor all the time. The people that didn't sell labor they didn't last long on the farm. You had to keep advancing with the progress.  

I don't know how many young people would have any idea how we grew up. Down here in the sticks it's a different world.  

We didnít even have a radio, electric alarm clock, lights.  

No indoor plumbing, kybos.  

When I started school, a country school in Monteeth. 30-40 kids in the 8 grades, we didn't have kindergarten. The first year I was in school there was a great big stove in the northwest corner of the schoolhouse. In the winter the teacher would let us little ones go back there by the stove and keep warm. We had no electric lights or water in the school house. That summer when I came back to school they had dug a home under the school house and put a furnace in, pipeless furnace in the middle. The old stove was gone, there was a light up in each corner, with a shade on it, reflector.  

It got modernized.  

Windows were all on the south side.  

Not when I started, there were some on the north side. But there was a regulation that came out that there had to be windows only on one side.  

How many of you kids are farm kids? [laughter]  

It is interesting to drive through the older housing and notice how many of the houses were built to take advantage of the sun. I bet all of you can remember living in older houses where there were a lot more windows on the south and east. People used that.  

We lived in an old house that didn't have any storm windows on it. In the winter those windows would be white with frost. We would stick our tongue out and make a little hole so we could see out.  

Get up in the morning and everything would be iced. Water bucket would be full of ice. Your feet would be froze.  

You always took your iron to bed with you. I did. All wrapped up. Put your feet on it to keep them warm during the night.  

Another interesting thing in the old days on the first day of March, they were moving days. A small percentage of the farmers owned their own farm and they moved. First day of March. I can remember sitting at the school and seeing out on the road to the village, wagons and people, hayracks go by. There were any number of people in those days that moved. Few families that moved every year or two.  

At that time those roads were mud. They weren't gravel or pavement. Even in the early 30s, my father's truck was in mud like that.  

It wasn't until after WW2 that they really got the rural roads graveled.  

First decent car came out in '27, by Henry Ford made. Most of them Model Ts before that, if you had a good team of horses you could go faster.  

You could put it in reverse and back up the hill, it had more power in reverse than forward.  

You people that didn't live on a farm don't know what you missed.  

Thatís right.  

I have a nephew that's 60 years old and he can't even harness a horse. Or milk a cow.  

Can you milk a cow?  

Never tried.  

We had cows, my grandpa did.  

My younger kids couldn't milk, but the older ones could.  

I had to milk before I went to school, then again when I got home. That's how I got through school, bring the lunch money.  

I'll be truthful, I had a milker.  

He had enough money to buy a milker, I didn't.  

They are talking about housing, why don't you tell them about the townhouses they built up there, had to sell for a loss. They thought they were going to get the older folks into it. But they built stairs.  

They said they didn't build them for older people, I don't know who they built them for.  

They sure priced them for older people.  

Where are they?  

Here in town, you came by them when you came in.  

Were they for sale or rent?  


$69,000. They were very small.  

They sold them for $59,000.  

They had a basement with washer/dryer. You might say there were two rooms on the main floor. Kitchen and living room I think. Then upstairs, so there were two flights of steps. Then they were small. People would look at them and turn their backs. But now they put the price down. The next ones, they are going to put them all on the ground. (Windows WAV 605 KB) (Mac AU 605 KB)  

They will be on the same place.  

...all the school system used to be there, then when they took in the country then they consolidated.  

40 years ago, about 1960. ...them two schools been consolidated for 70 years. Most had the rural school house.  

That makes me think about the Farmers Home housing. That has been developed. Do you have some here?  

Yes there is FHA,...  

Some of those are privately owned and some owned by nonprofit organizations. But Guthrie has one unit up here that used to be nonprofit. It's low income.  

It's privately owned...  

But at one time Homestead had it. Administrated it. ...  

Rented according to income.  

But there is a privately owned one north of the courthouse that is a terrible arrangement. It's all older people that live there to. It's on the side hill and the parking lot is up here, then they have to get out of the car and walk down the sidewalk, down the steps.  

And there is no exit in the back of the building.  

Some of the people live on the second floor, then have to go up steps.  

But the reason, that was owned by a corporation, the nursing home board, they took care of it. Then the home administration, they would find this and that wrong with it, so the nursing home gave it back to them then they sold it to a private individual.  

I think that type of housing, Guthrie Center really needs more of.  

All you people that won't move, who would live there?  

... there is people in the community that could take advantage of it.  

Widows, stuff like that.  

Especially if they had a nurse or someone look in on them.  

The percentage of elderly people in these little towns is pretty high. You go down to Menlow or Baggley or Casey, I don't know how they get along because they don't have the grocery store, some of them arenít able to drive.  

Do all of you drive? Do you walk around and get things? Do friends take you?  

Everybody in here drives.  

When you were talking about taxes, that was a service...  

...meal sites...  

Nobody goes over there anymore. They said no, they were out of money.  

There weren't enough people interested.  

Today, these women are on the tour busses checking tea houses out. We are on our own.  

How do you think, about the community, is there more it can provide for you?  

Maybe sidewalk shoveling?  

I live in the country. He has a skidloader. The last snowstorm, somebody had a skidloader and cleaned this all off.  

...if they can afford it, that's something else. The price of that is going up just like everything else.  

What about other services, like Meals on Wheels?  

Yes, we have that. To the elderly that can't get out and can't drive.  

...we've been doing that, coming to town for dinner for 25 years. Yet the young people don't have time. I took time out from farming to deliver meals.  

You retire, you can do a lot of volunteer work. Pays good.  

They are 50-60 years old and can't do it, yet we do it, it don't make sense.  

Some of these towns that have congregate meal sites, they do a lot of meals that way. They lost one of their deliverers a week ago.  

...young people are too busy to do that. I know when we tried to do it here, we would have to get it from Panora, we were just a satellite. We would have to go over and get them and the equipment, take it back again. To get someone to do it here, it would be the seniors. Young people are too busy. But it seniors are old and canít carry things, it was too hard. We set up for it here, but it got to be impossible. When they said they were closing 16 meal sites, we didn't know if we would get closed, so you just don't know. You get up in the seniors, there are a lot unable to do anything. There are those that are able and healthy and then some that aren't.  


One last question?  

A lot of your kids have moved away and a nursing home would be a last resort, would you be willing to move near your children and live with your children?  

I spent my lifetime around here, my friends are here, if I went down there and they put me in a nursing home I wouldnít know anybody, at least here I know people. The kids would come see me, I raised good kids.  

I talked to people that have moved out of the community that don't know anybody. When you get old, you can't make friends when you are 80-90 years old.  

We've got people here, friends, put their families in Bayard, 20 miles away, they said they would see a lot more people because it's a 20 mile drive. It just makes sense to stick with your own community. (Windows WAV 605 KB) (Mac AU 605 KB)  

I got a suggestion on that too. My wife for a long time has been in the Winterset nursing home, that's 60 miles away. You make that drive everyday...  

...skilled nursing.  

I think more people are trying to stay out of the nursing home, home health care has helped. (Windows WAV 605 KB) (Mac AU 605 KB)  

Do you end up modifying your home so you could bring your wife home?  


Do you get the home health care services too?  

No, we didn't.  

So you are able to get by fine?  

She is gone now.  

Hospice nursing home, they have counties...  

That's not very popular here. I know my grandpa did that a couple years ago. It was perfect for him. He wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere but his home so it was great to have them come. They have a great Hospice program in Ames. It's volunteers.  

It's not popular here.  


What about the medical services in Guthrie County? Do you have to go to Des Moines?  

...they come from Des Moines or Atlantic.  

They don't have many people in the hospital.  

They do a lot of outpatient.  

If you have something seriously wrong, then the doctor will send you to Des Moines to the hospital.  

...got along fine. His arm was going asleep. Since he done that, it hasn't bothered him at all. There is things they do. I just went in.  

...hernia operation and never entered the hospital.  

I was wondering about this building. I'm seeing the cards and stuff...  

We dance and have meals, soup suppers.  

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Contact: Mary Yearns