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Group offers Suncrest residents a positive space to discuss their lives, find support

Linda Makela, a resident of Suncrest Assisted Living, is now a “conductor” for a group at Suncrest where residents are able to talk about aging issues.

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Linda Makela leads the group session Monday, Dec. 27, 2021. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Linda Makela suggested adding a group to discuss aging to the Suncrest Assisted Living calendar, and the next thing she knew, she was facilitating the sessions.

Makela, a retired high school counselor, came up with the idea as a way for residents at the Cloquet facility to have a positive place to discuss what is going on in their lives.

“We keep it positive because when you are talking about aging, there are a million topics that go with that,” she said.

The idea for the group came to Makela as a way to meet residents' needs and was also sparked as a reaction to the different restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The sessions started in November and have brought four to 10 residents to the weekly meetings.

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With age comes the loss of family and friends, and Makela said each resident is in one stage of grieving, which is why she likes to keep sessions positive and lighthearted.
Reviews from those who have attended have been positive.

“They all report that it is the greatest thing that has ever happened to them,” Makela said. “They really enjoy the group.”

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Residents at Cloquet’s Suncrest Assisted Living take part in a weekly group therapy session on aging Monday, Dec. 27, 2021. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Lori Morris, the director for Suncrest Assisted Living, said it is always good that residents are able to start and run their own groups. In the short time since Makela's sessions began, Morris said she believes it has added value to residents.

“It was her idea, and it is really cool because she gets a lot of people coming and discussing,” she said.

Asking residents what they are interested in and what would be beneficial to them is one of the ways Suncrest tries to find new activities for its residents. Suncrest is not only an assisted living facility, but also an independent living facility, and Morris said the breakdown is roughly fifty-fifty.

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“(It’s a) safe place to talk about (aging) and talk about it with their peers,” she said.

Another issue the group's members have discussed is how to help their adult children. Morris said a lot of residents want to help their children but can sometimes run into issues while being on a fixed budget.

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Beverly Clark talks during the group session on aging at Suncrest Assisted Living in Cloquet on Monday, Dec. 27, 2021, as Janice Storck listens. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

“They have different kids that are maybe going through hard times, (and they talk about) how to help them out when they are on limited resources,” she said.

Other than the positive relief, the sessions so far have focused on health, speaking with doctors, dealing with telephone spam and motivation.

“Motivation is a big topic. As you get older, your motivation to do anything decreases,” Makela said.

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Linda Makela

Some of the solutions the group has found so far include listening to music or creating a list of things that need to be done during the day.

The group has also touched on physical activity and how exerting energy helps with sleep.

Makela’s goals with the group are to support an aging population and other residents at Suncrest Assisted Living.

“They need support, all of us need support,” she said. “If I can help in some way, encourage someone in some way, that is my goal.”

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Suncrest Assisted Living resident Janice Storck shows her toy cat to the other residents during the weekly group session on aging Monday, Dec. 27, 2021. "She’s a source of entertainment here,” Storck said. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

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Dylan covers the local governments of Cloquet and Carlton County, as well as the Esko and Wrenshall school boards for the Cloquet Pine Journal.
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