You’re never too old to head ‘up North’

Have you ever heard of a three-day, two-night summer camping trip for seniors offered by a senior-living community?

Ebenezer Ridges and Ridge Point residents
Ebenezer Ridges and Ridge Point residents have been taking overnight trips to Clearwater Lake near Annandale, Minnesota, for eight years now to partake in pontoon rides, fishing, hiking, campfire songs, roasted s’mores, games, arts and crafts and more. Photos courtesy of Ebenezer Ridges

One of the many important factors in deciding whether to “age in place” at home or to move into a community especially designed for seniors is the range of activities senior housing communities offer.

Movie nights, happy hours, craft projects, guest speakers and regular outings to museums, botanical gardens and theaters are often part of the draw.

But have you ever heard of a three-day, two-night summer camping trip for seniors offered by a senior-living community?

At the Ebenezer Ridges campus in Burnsville, staff have been offering this next-level experience going on eight years now.

It all started in 2012 at the Ebenezer Ridges Care Center in Burnsville with a single resident’s dream: Maxine Dix, who was 95 at the time, often reminisced about the annual trips she used to take to her family’s cabin on Clearwater Lake near Annandale, Minnesota.

Staff at Ebenezer Ridges saw a unique opportunity to provide this experience again for Dix — and all other residents — and began planning a camping adventure.

They found the perfect place, Camp Friendship in Annandale, a conference and retreat center 60 miles north of the metro area on the shores of Clearwater Lake. In addition to cabins and lodges, the center offers recreation activities such as pontoon rides, fishing, hiking, campfire songs, s’mores, games, arts and crafts, including tie-dyeing a commemorative T-shirt, and woodworking projects.

Camp Friendship in Annandale

Dix, who suffered a stroke shortly before her move to Ebenezer Ridges, was thrilled.

“I never dreamed I would be able to make the trip back to Clearwater Lake,” she said. “Tears come to my eyes thinking about the experience the staff at Ebenezer Ridges Care Center created for me — and the other residents.”

This month, residents of the Ebenezer Ridges communities will head up north for the community’s eighth-annual trip.

“Camping is a Minnesota tradition and we didn’t want these fun experiences to end just because someone ages,” said Jill Acosta, Ebenezer Ridges’ campus administrator. “We often ask our residents to talk about their favorite pastimes, hobbies and memories. Being able to help our residents relive their past with this camping trip is invaluable. They get to experience Minnesota’s northern woods and take a vacation again.”

Residents from the community’s skilled-nursing, assisted-living, memory-care and adult-day programs are invited to join the trip along with residents from Ebenezer’s independent-living community, Ridge Point Apartments in Burnsville.

Willie Ihli, 80, a Ridge Point resident, said he enjoyed the quiet of his early morning walks at Camp Friendship, as well as playing Yahtzee and other games with his camp mates, which brought out a special camaraderie.

“We have lots of laughs,” he said. “The kidding and jokes were really fun.”

Camp Friendship in Annandale

Ridge Point resident Roger Hanson, 85, said he traveled all over North America in his younger years, including hunting and fishing trips in the Canadian wilderness.

His trip to Clearwater Lake helped him reconnect with the outdoors.

“The mornings were bright and clear. The dew was on the grass and the morning sun made the lake look like millions of diamonds sparkling,” he said.

Hanson enjoys the break from his regular routine, too.

“Every so often we need to recharge our batteries. One of the better ways to do this is to change our location and surroundings. I’ve always been a nature boy at heart.”

Acosta said there’s just something special about connecting with friends in the great outdoors.

“The laughter around the campfire is infectious,” she said. “And seeing the joy on their faces is why we continue to plan this trip each year.”

Do you know of a new or interesting senior housing facility in the Twin Cities that might make a good story? Write Minnesota Good Age editor Sarah Jackson at [email protected].