New facility serves low-income seniors

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Aisha Kassim (left) and Susan Quella are facility managers of the new senior care facility Primetime LivINN on North Broadway.

As people age, a time often comes when it's no longer safe for them to live on their own.

However, many of those seniors don't have the money for a high-end assisted living facility, and nor do they want or need to go into a full-care nursing home.

Those are the people who are served by Minnesota's Elderly Waiver program, which funds home and community-based services for seniors in need of some medical assistance.In 2012, the Minnesota Elderly Waiver program worked with 31,320 people statewide.

However, having some financial support doesn't mean it's easy to find a facility that fits each person needs and tastes. Aisha Kassim learned that during many years working with waiver clients for Olmsted County.Senior care facilities often accept only a small percentage of waiver clients, according to Kassim.

Waiver clients' choices are often limited to sharing a small room and bathroom with another senior. That's not very attractive for many private people used to living on their own, particularly for many immigrants.


"I saw how people were given no choice for privacy. I thought it was shameful. It bothered me," she says.

She began to dream of a small place that could offer waiver clients a choice of a private room with its own bathroom, a place that could allow people to age with dignity.

Kassim's dream became reality in September when Primetime LivINN opened its doors at 105 N. Broadway. She's hosting a grand opening from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday

With the support of local business mentors, she has transformed the three-story former Local 21 office building into a long-term and short-term care facility with 18 rooms and a commercial kitchen.

Primetime already has three residents, with another moving in soon.

"What makes us different is that we accept 100 percent of waiver clients. They don't need to share a room, Kassim says. "We're like a big family."

Primetime's size allows her to offer individualized experiences for clients, including providing traditional meals upon request for people of different nationalities.

While the facility is not limited to caring for immigrants, the staff will try to accommodate such clients as much as possible to make them comfortable.


Susan Quella, a retired Mayo Clinic nurse, has joined Primetime as its medical supervisor.

She notes that size of the rooms are much larger than many available to waiver clients.

"While they don't need to bring furniture, there's enough room that they can," Quella says. "They can bring a little bit of home with them, if they want."

Kassim first took her idea for the facility to a retired Rochester business leader to get his opinion.She originally met Jim McPeak, when he and others hosted a community barbecue to welcome Somali immigrants to Rochester. McPeak was president of Babcock Genetics, Inc. for 28 years.

"I'm an advocate of everyone getting a fair chance. That's really what this is about," he says.

McPeak listened to her, helped her work out a plan and connected her with George Bayrd and Mac Hamilton of Hamilton Real Estate to line up a building. Many properties were considered until the downtown building was eventually purchased and remodeled.

That location puts it in the middle of an active neighborhood that's near many Mayo Clinic buildings, the Olmsted County Senior Center, local churches and the mosque.

Quella says an incoming resident is moving here from Red Wing, primarily because the location will allow him to make a short trip on his motorized scooter for his weekly dialysis treatments.


"I thought this was something that would have a good place in Rochester. She knows the business and knows the people," says Bayrd. "I think it's going to be a huge success."

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