Aase Haugen awarded funding for new nursing facility in Decorah

Aase Haugen Senior Services was recently awarded a $12.7 million loan from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development to help with the construction of a nursing and assisted living complex on Nordic Drive in Decorah. (submitted photo)

By Kate Klimesh,

Aase Haugen Senior Services was recently awarded a $12.7 million loan from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development to help with the construction of a nursing and assisted living complex on Nordic Drive in Decorah. (submitted photo)

(Originally published in the June 8 Public Opinion, available in print and online. Certain content is presented first to subscribers (print and digital), then released for consumption later)


Some may say that at 108 years old, it may be more difficult to reinvent yourself. But as a business that takes care of the people of the community, Aase Haugen Senior Services has found great strength in returning to its roots while planning the future campus to house their Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC). 

Leadership and board members have been attempting to find the most effective pathway forward to building a new nursing home and uniting the Aase Haugen campus for well over a decade. With the right people in the right places – all at the right time – they have some exciting momentum and have recently secured $12.7 million in a low-interest loan through USDA, along with another $1 million Emergency Rural Health Care grant. The project estimate of $19.7 million will be sought through local, self-funded loans and a capital campaign that kicked off with an announcement event Monday, June 5.  

“We’ve kept very busy working with our architect, Align Architecture and Planning of Waterloo, as well as our local attorney, the local engineer, City of Decorah officials and Winneshiek County Economic Development and Tourism to really give it a push for a ground-breaking next spring,” reported Executive Director of Aase Haugen Senior Service, Sam Boeke. 

“We’re hoping to be managing the bid process by July of this year as we finalize the site plan and the final design of the new 78-bed facility and 12-unit assisted living on the hilltop campus. We want to make sure we don’t overbuild, but plan for today and the future. We’re trying to design for what is sustainable in the community.”

Aase Haugen’s roots

Originally established in 1915, Aase Haugen Home for the Aged was a first of its kind in the region. Aase Haugen, a Norwegian immigrant, was the last surviving member of her family and inherited a handsome sum. Intent on putting it to good use, she won legal battles with nephews and nieces to spend her fortune building a home for community members who had no one left to take care of them. 

After spending her adult life caring for her father, brothers and younger sister when their mother died on the trek to their farmstead in Winneshiek County, she was diagnosed with cancer and had no one to look after her. Boeke stated, “Aase’s sacrifice and fight for people she didn’t even know is inspiring, she created a place they could call home with a continuity of care. Her vision has been realized through the original Aase Haugen Home, the current facility built in 1964, and now, it’s time for a new place for the elders of our community to call home.”

“This new facility serves, as previous facilities have served, as an acknowledgement of the generations of elders who have spent much of their now 90 plus years building this community. The community as a whole is successful – a beautiful place to live and work. But the elder component of the community doesn’t get talked about as much, and it is a component of our community. Those individuals deserve this new facility as a way we can show our appreciation, thanks and respect. Their care should meet the same community quality levels as are showcased in the schools and other city resources. They should be equally as excellent and robust.”

Hilltop Community Campus plans

The hope is to finalize plans for a 78-bed facility that can accommodate up to 60 nursing care beds, with some of those having the capacity to be doubles up to an occupancy of 85, along with 18 Memory Care or CCDI beds. There are 12 apartments for Assisted Living, with room for expansion if donor support allows.

The Hilltop Campus has a total of 52 acres available, and the new facility will be built adjacent to Vennehjem and Nabotunet on Nordic Drive. Aase Haugen Board of Directors President Steve Langland said, “This is a natural extension of our Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) philosophy – to provide all levels of senior care in one organization and now this will be accomplished on one campus in a beautiful neighborhood – it’s a dream come true.”

“We had to be cognizant of the Nursing Facility market,” Boeke reported, “and size the new facility appropriately to be both successful and sustainable, and that includes available staffing.”

The new facility must be built, with a hope to break ground next spring with an 18-month completion date. Only then can the residents of Aase Haugen consider the move to the new facility.

Ohio Street facility plans

Once the new facility is built and in operation, the emptied Aase Haugen facility on Ohio Street is planned for reuse support the need for affordable housing in Decorah. Complete renovation of the space will take place, creating affordable, low-income apartments. 

“We need to also be able to care for the staff carrying out Aase’s mission every day. And right now, they can’t afford to live in Decorah. We hope to be able to build something for future frontline staff and other low-income people.”

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to create what the community says they prioritize providing to the community. We can make it happen, but we need support from the community and city for the project.”

Boeke concluded, “We have the property, the infrastructure, the need and purpose to support a greater good for the community. We have the skillset to make it happen. Now we just need city and community support for this project as well.”

For more information on the plans and vision for Aase Haugen’s future, visit www.aasehaugen.com or call 563-382-3603. 

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