Tag Archives: generation

The Next Generation 
of Family Farming

June 21, 2017 by
Photography by Sarah Lemke

Surrounded by tomato seedlings, purple carrots, and strange-looking peppers—whatever’s freshest at Theilen Produce Gardens—Kristy Theilen is a blonde-dreadlocked ambassador for a farm that has been in her family since the 1800s.

The cheerful 36-year-old and her veggies can be found at summertime farmers markets in the Omaha area, including Saturday in the Old Market and Sundays at the Florence Mill.

From left: Kristy Theilen, Fernando Castrorena, Brennen Settles, Jacquie Theilen, Linda Theilen, and Eldon Theilen

Back in Schuyler, Nebraska, an old farmhouse anchors Theilen Produce Gardens’ home base. Kristy’s great-grandfather built the farmhouse in 1910, but it has been renovated and remodeled several times over the years.

Kristy and her mother both grew up in the home. After returning to Nebraska from Arizona in 2013, the two generations are back under one roof on the family’s 1,200-acre farm.

“When I was living in Phoenix, I came across a mask-maker who had mask-making traditions in their family for thousands of years,” Kristy says. “I thought about that—and how people in the city were surprised to hear I grew up on a farm—and got to thinking how important it is not to break that occupational chain. Farming has been on both sides of my family since forever.”

Her parents, Linda and Eldon, moved into the farmhouse in the late 1980s after they were married. “It used to be white wood panel siding,” says Linda, whose grandfather (John Bailey) built the home. Asbestos siding replaced the wood during her childhood; Eldon added the olive-green vinyl siding when they overhauled the structure.

Kristy’s older brother, his wife, and their children live on the other side of a creek, in a residence that previously housed their grandparents (near the original Bailey family homestead, which burned down and was rebuilt in the early 1900s).

The Theilen family’s ancestors by the (burned-down) farmhouse.

Her maternal ancestors in the Bailey family passed through Nebraska during a cross-country cattle drive to California in 1853. “We have a journal written by someone on the trip,” Linda says. “When they passed along the Platte River, they thought it was heaven, so they came back.”

After Linda’s father, Tom Bailey, assumed leadership of the family farm, he raised four kids in the old house. Linda was one of them. They farmed corn and alfalfa, and they sold eggs from Rhode Island red hens.

Eldon grew up on a farm north of Columbus. For the 33-some years since he and Linda took charge of the farm, they have continued the family’s agricultural tradition under their married name of Theilen.

At peak pork production, Eldon raised 3,000 hogs. Then, the market fell out just prior to the turn of the millennium. “There were so many hogs that packing houses couldn’t process them all,” Eldon says.

Today, they focus on corn and soybeans (but “mostly corn,” Eldon says). Kristy’s brother, Jeremy, helps manage the crops. Meanwhile, Kristy takes care of their smaller quantities of diversified livestock: chickens, goats, sheep, pigs, rabbits, and more. She is also in charge of the garden-fresh produce, starting seedlings in outdoor greenhouses (built by her father), and caring for the plant nursery. (The nursery was an addition to the home, also built by her father.)

After a 10-month stint with the Peace Corps in Macedonia, three semesters studying abroad in Austria, and several years working as a community organizer in Phoenix and Tucson—including gardening in a vacant lot next to a Phoenix artist commune—Kristy returned to the family farm with the goal of implementing the latest sustainable agriculture trends.

Kristy and her fiancé, Fernando Castorena, have helped Theilen Produce Gardens expand into community-supported agriculture. Their CSA sells shares that entitle customers to receive weekly supplies of fresh produce and eggs, which are delivered in the Schuyler area and to farmers market pick-up points in Omaha.

“We were planning to be the world’s youngest snowbirds, but I didn’t want to leave my chores to my brother,” Kristy says, adding that 2017 was (almost) her first full year back in Nebraska, minus two months when they traveled to Arizona.

 

“These new things are all Kristy’s doing. I think they’re great,” Linda says. “I think we need to be diversified in future years with grain prices the way they are.”

Other new initiatives that Kristy has developed include programs for kids and eco-tourism: Easter egg hunts, a Halloween pumpkin patch, hosting campers from the website Hipcamp, and welcoming boarders with the Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (volunteers who work in exchange for room and board, also known as “WOOFers”).

During the Halloween pumpkin patch, Linda tells real-life horror stories of the criminals hanged at the old Colfax County courthouse. Her father (Tom Bailey) bought the old jail cell at an auction to protect irrigation pumps. Now, the jail cell is a historical relic tucked away in the back of their property.

Brennen Settles

On the edge of bountiful cornfields, a tall signpost points to the farm’s various attractions: Shell Creek Path, corn maze, pumpkin patch, horses, animal barn, Bunnyville, and Coffee Quonset.

In Linda’s childhood, the “Coffee Quonset” was a storage barn for corn and machinery. She remembers playing on the piles of corn. Later, her husband built a new barn for the modern combine and larger machinery. The old barn was going under-utilized when Kristy suggested making a little shop for coffee and tea.

“These new things are all Kristy’s doing. I think they’re great,” Linda says. “I think we need to be diversified in future years with grain prices the way they are.”

Linda and Eldon tell the story of their land and farmhouse from a dining table, with a spread of fresh vegetables and hard-boiled eggs.

When they moved in, Eldon personally replaced all of the walls, installed new electrical wiring, added central air conditioning, and made subsequent upgrades to the home over the years.

Eldon has always encouraged his daughter to think outside of the box, because that’s how he looks at the world. He designed and constructed a “chicken tractor” that allows him to move chickens over cropland while replenishing nitrogen in the soil with their manure. Last year, he also hand-built their chicken “gypsy wagon,” a mobile hen house trailer.

Inside the house, he rearranged the floor plan of the traditional farmhouse. It’s now a four-bedroom home, with three bathrooms. The old master bedroom on the main floor became an office with the latest computer tech.

“In the ’80s, I had the first computer in Colfax County,” Eldon says. “I always try to stay on top of technological developments.”

Kristy’s fiancé has meanwhile brought crucial Latin cultural perspective and Spanish language skills to the family farm business.

Fernando grows vegetables common in traditional Mexican dishes—huitlacoche (a corn fungus that was a delicacy in Aztec cuisine), squash blossoms, and tomatillos—and he helps sell goats and other animals to local Spanish-speaking residents.

Before moving to the area, he didn’t know what to expect. But he was surprised by the large Hispanic population working in local agricultural industries and living in Schuyler and Fremont. He quickly found himself perfectly at ease in the rural Nebraskan setting, he says: “About 40 percent of our customers [who come to the farm] are Guatemalan or Mexican.”

Fernando’s dream is to launch a farm-to-table restaurant and/or food truck that could service the Schuyler area. His family works in the food industry in Phoenix, so he is confident that he could make it work.

The future is ripe with potential on the Theilen family farm. Who knows? Nebraska’s first farm-to-table Mexican restaurant might just sprout 75-minutes northwest of Omaha.

Kristy also has several other ideas for the future of the farm: expanding into wine production, hosting weddings, and growing their goat herd. “Wine, weddings, and goats, that’s my dream,” Kristy says with a laugh.

Visit theilenproduce.com for more information.

This article was printed in the July/August 2017 Edition of Omaha Home.

Marisa Miakonda Cummings

August 26, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

I would like to begin by introducing myself. My English name is Marisa Cummings. My Omaha or Umoⁿhoⁿ name is Miakonda or Moon Power. I was given my Buffalo Tail Clan name by my great-grandmother, Edith Walker Springer. My father is the late Michael Cummings, or Stampeding Buffalo. My father’s mother is Eunice Walker Mohn, or Buffalo Tail Clan Woman. My grandmother’s parents are the late Charles Amos Walker, or White Chest, and the late Ida Springer Walker, or New Moon. I am an Omaha woman. I am a Buffalo Tail Clan woman of the Sky people. I am the oldest child of eight children. I am the mother of four children.

As I wrote the paragraph to introduce myself, I was mentally translating from Umoⁿhoⁿ to English. The Umoⁿhoⁿ language is a beautiful conduit of culture. Self introductions are very important in our community. One must know who they are to know where they are going in this life. Language allows us to express ourselves to one another as human beings, to talk to the Creator, and express ourselves through song and ceremony. As language is a conduit for expressing thoughts and feelings, and relaying cultural knowledge, it is essential that our Umoⁿhoⁿ language is revered and preserved for our future generations. We must preserve our language to talk to our Creator through our ceremonies as we were instructed to do in our language.

Marisa3My grandmother grew up hearing Umoⁿhoⁿ spoken as the primary language at home; it was her first language. She has told me about her parents waking well before sunrise and praying in Umoⁿhoⁿ in the kitchen. Her father, Charles Walker or Mongaska, was taken to Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Carlisle was a military-style school founded in 1879 by Capt. Richard Pratt under the authority of the U.S. government with the founding principle that Native Americans were a vanishing race and their only hope for survival was assimilation to white mainstream culture. The first thing done was to cut off the children’s sacred hair. The second step was to make them stop speaking their traditional language and converse in English. My great-grandfather came back to the reservation after his stay at Carlisle and remained fluent in both Umoⁿhoⁿ and English. He served on our tribal council for over 25 years. My grandmother’s mother, Ida or Metexi, was sent to Genoa Indian Industrial School in Genoa, Nebraska. She also returned to the reservation and spoke fluent Umoⁿhoⁿ. Both of my great-grandparents survived assimilation and Indian boarding schools and retained their Umoⁿhoⁿ language in daily practice in and outside of their home.

Tragedy struck when my grandmother was 10 years old. Her mother passed away and left eight orphaned children. Her father decided to send her, at age 14, to Haskell Indian School in Lawrence, Kansas. There was no more playing in the timber, no more collecting wild plums and gooseberries. She was alone. She said that she often wondered what she did wrong. Was her father angry with her? Why would he send her away? My grandmother graduated from Haskell and moved to Sioux City, Iowa, with the courage to start a life for herself.

My father was born in 1955. He was considered a “half-breed,” as his father was a white man. However, his grandfather, Charlie Walker, took pity on him and gave him the Umoⁿhoⁿ Buffalo Tail Clan name Te-Nuga-Na-Tide. My father was an incredible man. He received his master’s degree from Iowa State University and went to work for the corporate world. He always instilled in me the power of education and the importance of coming back to help the people with the education I received. I was raised to be of service and make a difference. My father also raised me like a first-born son. He made me tough, taught me to always speak up and use my voice, to be courageous and strategic. He told me that women have a strong place in leadership and that Native women will be at the front of the movement to bring back language and culture. He was very proud when I graduated with a degree from the University of Iowa.

Marisa1As a young woman, I was always interested in our language. I would ask my grandma and great-grandma to tell me stories. I would sit at their feet or at the kitchen table in my grandma’s trailer while I asked one question after another. I think she got tired of me at times. I still am always asking questions of my grandmother. How do I say this? Do you remember this? She is the matriarch of our family. I am blessed that my children can be close to her and experience her unconditional love and knowledge.

In 1978, the Indian Religious Freedoms Act was passed. Our ceremonies, songs, and dances were no longer illegal. We could legally pray in the manner the Creator intended for us to pray. Yet, so many of the songs, ceremonies, and teachings were no longer practiced. In my life journey, I have rediscovered my love of ceremony. I enjoy collecting and preparing medicine. I love that I have the ability to be a lifelong learner of culture and ceremony, but in order to make that true connection, I must relearn a language that is rooted in my DNA. I believe that we can relearn our sense of true self and heal both individually and collectively.

My children have been born in a generation where our ceremonies are being revived and practiced. My children have been exposed to ceremonies, songs, dance, and love of our way of life. As I embrace our ceremonies and language, I know that I am also healing those who went before me. As I heal, I give reverence to ancestors whose hearts broke when they saw English replace Umoⁿhoⁿ in their homes, those who watched alcohol replace ceremony, and those who witnessed government commodities replace our sacred foods. As we revive our sacred way of life, we renew and honor all of those who went before us.

Visit omaha-nsn.gov for more information. Omaha Magazine

Family Ties

August 26, 2013 by
Photography by Chris Wolfgang

Killion family members from all over the country take turns hosting reunions every two years, a ritual that’s been going on now for over three decades. Jim and Anna Killion of Omaha had a chance to relive shared memories with 50 of Jim’s blood relatives and their spouses, most of them elderly, when the couple hosted the gathering July 19-21 at the Marriott Regency. Advancing age and health issues have pared down participation; reunions used to draw over 100.

Since 1985, the Lewandowski clan has met every three years in several different states and always over the Fourth of July weekend. Kathy Aultz of Omaha welcomed more than 250 people, including a two-week-old baby, to her home turf for this year’s reunion. The fest took place at Mahoney State Park, where families stayed in cabins or nearby hotels.

A 90th birthday party for Marian Leach of Omaha, organized by her daughter, Kathy Meier Morris of Columbus, Neb., provided a much-anticipated get-together of the Meier/Leach immediate family in early June. The last time Meier Morris, her two brothers, and their families converged on Omaha (outside of weddings and funerals) was 10 years ago for Leach’s 80th. The community room at Pacific Springs Village in West Omaha, where Leach lives independently, provided an intimate space for heartfelt congratulations.

Three family social gatherings—each different in size, scope, and purpose—nevertheless answer a basic need most Americans share: the need to belong.

“We tell our history through stories. By gathering families together, you have the opportunity to reconnect,” muses Aultz, who, as executive director of the Douglas County Historical Society, dedicates both her personal and professional life to preserving and sharing the past. “Reunions keep us grounded.”

Successful reunions have a central purpose. For Aultz and her relatives, the marriage of Anton and Sophia Lewandowski on May 6, 1919, in central Nebraska provided the reason to celebrate. Aultz’s mother, 88-year-old Esther Lewandowski Kaminski, was the first of 10 children born to the couple.

“I put Grandma and Grandpa’s wedding pictures up a lot of places at the reunion because that’s when our family tree started,” says Aultz.

“We tell our history through stories. By gathering families together, you have the opportunity to reconnect.” – Kathy Aultz

The family tree now has 449 leaves on it and is still sprouting. Aultz contacted every family by letter over a year ago about the reunion dates and then followed up with several e-mails. A nod to the fierce pride the group feels about their Polish heritage could be found in the handouts: a cookbook with favorite Polish recipes that families e-mailed to Kathy ahead of time, and a refrigerator magnet made of cloth and shaped into a pierogi (Polish dumpling).

The Lewandowski reunions include lots of games for the children, golf tournaments for adults, outings (a busload of people visited the Holy Family Shrine in Gretna), endless buffets, and socializing that lasts into the wee hours of the morning.

Genealogy spurs the Killions to gather biannually. They have traced their roots to an ancestor, possibly Irish, who sailed from England and landed on the shores of North Carolina in 1755. Descendants, many of whom live in Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska, spend reunion time visiting cemeteries, checking dates on gravestones, documenting family historical data, and touring places of historic significance; a passion not necessarily shared by the younger generations.

“Anyone under 40 couldn’t care less about history and antiques because they haven’t reached an age where it’s important to them,” laments Killion, 73, who acts as keeper of the spreadsheet that contains 225 family names, addresses, and phone numbers.

Then, with a wry smile, Killion continues, “I called Omaha Magazine to get some handouts because it has a great events calendar, and she asked me, ‘What age group are we addressing?’ And I said, ‘Seventy and over. You know, yesterday’s teenagers!’”

As reunion organizer for the past 15 years or so, Killion knows the importance of nailing down dates and hotel space at least a year in advance, no matter where the event is held. Almost 100 members of her husband’s family don’t have e-mail, forcing Killion to use the U.S. Postal Service for the initial Save the Date letter that also contains the location and registration information. She then follows up with phone calls.

“Anyone under 40 couldn’t care less about history and antiques because they haven’t reached an age where it’s important to them.” – Anna Killion

“One of my favorite tricks is to put the invitation on iridescent paper. That way it doesn’t get lost,” chuckles Killion, who’s been married to Jim for 48 years and together raised six children.

No ‘snail mail’ for Meier Morris; she used Facebook and cell phones to gather about 30 members of her immediate family and stepsiblings to Omaha for a reunion that actually served a dual-purpose.

“We had a noon baby shower for one of my daughters, who is due in September, at Upstream that Saturday,” says Meier Morris, who explains that the men played pool and ate lunch there. “Mom’s party was at 7 that evening, and we had it catered. It was easy. Our family stayed at the Embassy
Suites La Vista.”

“I was just thrilled to see everybody,” exclaims Marian Leach, a grandmother of eight and great-grandmother of eight (with one on the way). “I couldn’t believe they would go to that trouble and expense to be with me!”

To which her family might respond, why wouldn’t they give back to a woman who continues to give so much to them? Why wouldn’t they celebrate a woman whose strength, vitality, faith, and loving nature sustained her through the heartbreaking loss of two husbands?

“We all stood up and told ‘mom’ stories,” says Meier Morris. “The grandchildren talked about all the trips she took them on; trips to Cozumel, Cancun, Baja. We just wanted her to know that we love her, and we’re very proud of her.”

The Killions, Lewandowskis, and the Meier/Leach families reached through time, miles, and hectic lifestyles to strengthen the ties that bind them—a legacy worth passing down to generations.

Youth Priorities

June 20, 2013 by

Back in my day, all the cool kids wore alligators on their shirts.

It was an essential indicator of class status. You simply had to have the little Izod Lacoste symbol. No other animal would do. Every kid knew they needed at least one “alligator shirt” to even be on the fringes of fashion acceptance. I remember kids saving their allowances just to have that one, precious shirt. And scoffing at anyone who wore a fake. Really.

The ’80s were all about wealth and status. What you had, what you owned, where you lived—it all defined pecking order in the Teendom. There was even a popular movie, Wall Street, where the main character’s key line was “Greed is good.”

It was so accepted back then, but I think many teens today would be horrified at how much emphasis society once placed on the accumulation of “stuff.” While there will always be some level of status related to wealth, today’s teens see things much differently than we once did.

For them, it’s all about experiences. Experiences they can talk about and share on their social networks.

Marketers know this. Archrival, based in Lincoln, is a leader in youth marketing. Their clients include Red Bull®, Zappos®, and Adidas®. When they build campaigns geared toward teens and young adults, they know that, to be successful, they need to create an opportunity for an experience—hopefully interactive, fun, and visual. And most importantly? Something the participant can share online.

This generation grew up with the entire world at their fingertips. In just a few clicks, they see what all of their friends are doing, but they also learn about the needs in their communities. They can download an app that lets them donate $5 to help hungry children in another part of the world. You will not find a more hard-working group of volunteers than a group of young adults passionate about a cause. Many are introduced to volunteer work through community service requirements, where they can develop a lifelong interest in philanthropy—in time, talent, and finances.

Many young people want to do things that make a difference, especially in helping others. They want to be part of the solution. They want to share pictures and talk about it on their social networks. And, quite frankly, it benefits their online identity, which is extremely important to this group—especially those aware that college recruiters and employers will be looking at their profiles.

It’s easy for parents to forget how committed their children can be. But it can change how we connect with our teens. My own teen expert, my 15-year-old son, agrees. “People want to have interesting stuff to share online,” he says. “That’s what they want to spend their money on, too.” Yeah, it’s nice to have the branded shirt, but it’s also okay to shop at the thrift store if it means more money to spend toward a great trip or even just a fun night out with friends.

Good parenting information to have tucked away if you are trying to “market” something to your teen. Sell them on the experience and the great photos they can share on their Facebook, Twitter, or Reddit accounts. And hey, maybe they’ll let you come along, too.

The Reinvention of Retirement

February 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

In the past, many people began to contemplate retirement as they approached age 60. However, today’s Boomer generation is taking much the same approach to retirement as they did toward life and career choices in their 20s: They sought out jobs that would make them happy, fruitful, and independent.

And since today’s Baby Boomers are now in their 60s, as well as being 78 million strong, they have over a quarter of their lives yet to live. They are living life with the very same passion that they had in their 20s. Carbon copies of former retiring generations they are not. Instead, they are reinventing their lives and changing what we used to call retirement. Many are branching out into second careers with zest and highly anticipated enthusiasm. Personal choice, freedom, and individuality mark the Boomer generation in 2013.

One such person is Pastor Larry Peterson, 65, who was the executive pastor at Bellevue Christian Center from 2004 to 2011. He then stepped down to pastor the 250-300 seniors in his church community. He also presides over the faculty and business aspects of the church and center. Formerly, he had successful military and business careers that allowed him to travel to many places.

feature_LarryP

Larry Peterson, former pastor

“Despite my life experiences, I felt that there was a void that I just couldn’t explain nor fulfill,” says Peterson. After settling in Bellevue, his soul and faith in humankind deepened as a result of everything that he had previously learned in his earlier careers. It was that enlightenment that became the vessel that would lead him onto his next journey.

Now in his third career path, he has truly found his calling in life.

Photography is also a passion of Peterson’s. That’s just one more path that he travels. Peterson keeps active by playing softball on a team for seniors called “Midwest Express.” His team recently placed fifth in the nation.

Another boomer who decided to follow her dreams and to transform her life is Dr. Kathy DeFord, 60, who now has her own dental practice in Papillion, DeFord Family Dental.

Her first career started out as a stay-at-home mom to four children. “When our children were all in school, I got a part-time job working in a dental office doing light office work. Occasionally, the dentist would have me help him with a patient when his dental assistant was busy. I loved those times. I asked him if he would train me in dental assisting and he agreed.

Kathy DeFord, D.D.S.

Kathy DeFord, D.D.S.

“One evening when my husband, David, and I were sitting at the dinner table chatting about the days’ events, I mentioned casually that if I could have any job, I would work as a dentist.

“At that moment, I had a silent but strong impression that this was something that I should pursue. I had not been in school for over 20 years. I enrolled in Houston Community College to brush up and eventually was accepted into the Honors’ College at the University of Houston in Houston, Texas. I graduated from Creighton School of Dentistry in 2001; the same year two of our sons graduated from college and our youngest son graduated from high school. I spent several years with a group dental practice, Dundee Family Dental, before opening DeFord Family Dental in Papillion. I really enjoy my work,” DeFord says with a smile. “This is my heartfelt destiny.”

Having her own dental practice has been extremely rewarding, DeFord shares, “I have always loved working with my hands and helping people.”

DeFord spends her spare time keeping active visiting her four children that are spread out all over the country. Every three years she plans a family reunion at a different destination. A quiet retirement at home for her…no way!

Many potential retirees are pursuing new businesses ventures late in life as well. Mark Leichtle, 61, has gone from firm administrator in a large Omaha law firm to becoming the proprietor of the Old World Oil and Vinegar store in Rockbrock Village shopping center.

Leichtle has dozens upon dozens of mouth-watering flavored vinegars and oils to delight your palette and expand your cooking and eating pleasure. He also has many varieties of dried exotic mushrooms and special sea salts from all over the world.

“In my younger years, I was a maitre d’ and chef at a restaurant that did much of its cooking tableside. It was there that I learned about various cooking oils and special vinegars that would enhance and enliven foods to the delight of the customers.” – Mark Leichtle, owner of Old World Oil & Vinegar

When asked how he decided to go into this type of business after a long and fruitful career, Leichtle says that several things in his life had led him to what he’s now doing (and loving it!).

“In my younger years, I was a maitre d’ and chef at a restaurant that did much of its cooking tableside. It was there that I learned about various cooking oils and special vinegars that would enhance and enliven foods to the delight of the customers,” says Leichtle. “I enjoyed it so much and never forgot the wonderful experience of making food so delicious.”

Leichtle and his wife have a daughter in Minneapolis who showed them many stores that carried fine olive oils and aromatic vinegars. This awakened his love for cooking and using those special vinegars and fine oils that he once used in his earlier years. It was then that he began a quest for finding more specialty food stores all over the country and learning more about the newest and most delectable oils, vinegars, mushrooms, and sea salts available. Thus, came the inspiration for his store.

As you have read above, Omaha’s boomers are truly forever young and fervent about recreating and reinventing their retirement years. They have new career paths, vitality, enjoyment, and most of all, time to seek out passions and fall in love again with life.

Not Home Alone

December 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

As the largest generation in American history, often referred to as the post-war “Baby Boomers,” begins to reach and pass their 60th birthdays, the sheer size of the population is predicted to overwhelm the current facilities intended to meet the needs for assistive care and skilled care. That fact, along with many seniors’ desire to remain in their familiar, comfortable family home, have prompted many Americans to turn to companies and resources that can help them stay in their homes safely, happily, and productively and at a reduced expense.

The “Aging in Place’ trend has gained steam in recent years, and is expected to continue to grow in popularity in the next decade. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has defined “Aging in Place” as “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably regardless of age, income, or ability level.”

Finding quality providers of at-home products and services is one of the most important aspects in preparing a successful plan for aging in place. Omaha has a wide selection of service providers, caregivers, and equipment providers who can work with the individual or the family to make aging at home a viable option.

Matt Nyberg, owner of Home Care Assistance of Omaha, says that while the majority of “Baby Boomers” haven’t yet reached the point of requiring home-care products and services, his company is preparing for the deluge of demand ahead. His firm provides seniors with non-medical, hands-on assistance with activities of daily living, bathing, and transferring, with what he says is an innovation in the business. Each client has an RN (registered nurse) who assesses needs, manages services, and attends doctors’ appointments, if requested. The RN then communicates with the family (with the client’s permission) in order to keep the family up-to-date on the client’s condition.

Laurie Dondelinger, marketing director at Kohll’s Home Care in Omaha, recently took this writer on a tour of their 10,000-square-foot showroom, which contains hundreds, perhaps thousands, of assistive devices from canes to stairway lifts to walk-in tubs to ceiling lift tracks which literally lift a disabled person out of bed and motor them anywhere in the home where the ceiling track has been installed. Kohll’s has in-house contractors who can install assistive devices as well as remodel a home to accommodate such devices.

Dondelinger tells of a satisfied client who installed a stairway lift in his three-story house. He is so thrilled with the ease in moving from floor to floor that he feels as if he now lives in a ranch-style home, and he’s no longer faced with having to sell his beautiful home on the river where he has lived for many years.

Bob Sackett, owner of Complete Access in La Vista, got into the home-accessibility business because of a personal crisis facing a family member 25 years ago. He is now a licensed elevator sales and installation provider specializing in modular ramps, stairway lifts and elevators, for the home serving customers in western Iowa and central and eastern Nebraska. His company sells both new and previously owned products, allowing him to meet the needs of even tight budgets. Like so many in the stay-at-home business, Sackett has a true fervor about his business, which he says is not only cost-effective in keeping people in their own homes, but also improves clients’ quality of life.

However, Sackett says that, in his initial assessment, he looks and listens to learn whether or not the person can survive happily at home. If his accessibility services could result in a person living 24 hours alone with no human interaction, then he isn’t interested in the business opportunity because then he would not be providing a high quality-of-life service.

Spirit Homecare is a newcomer to the Omaha home-assistance market, providing skilled hands-on care such as administering medications and treatments per doctor’s orders, as well as non-medical services via homemakers and companions, including meal preparation, transportation services, and light housekeeping. They also provide supervised hands-on assistance with personal care needs, help with prescribed exercises and medical equipment, and much more. Up to 24-hour care and live-in companion services are available as well.

Spirit Homecare is part of St. Jude Healthcare, a company that provides services in Wisconsin, Nebraska, California, Arizona and Kansas. Although non-medical assistance is not reimbursable by Medicare, sometimes Medicaid and private long-term care insurance does provide reimbursement. Tom Moreland, CEO of St. Jude Healthcare, says that his company is the only one in the Midwest that provides services in a manner consistent with the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Services.

The above providers are but a tip of the iceberg of services, providers, and products available to assist with aging in place. It cannot be emphasized too much that if one wants a future at home, one should begin the planning as soon as possible.