Original Article by Teresa Hammond / The Leader

Avenue, Oakdale location can tell stories. Whether it be stories heard through the walls of the 45 studio occupants or the literal walls of the first Oakdale hospital; its history is rich.

“I love the history piece,” Executive Director Sonya Smith said of the building. “A lot of residents joke with us, I was born here and I’m gonna die here.”

Now close to five years since being purchased by Agemark, the Nebraska based company spent both time and money making renovations and upgrades to the space creating a homey freshness for the senior community. Smith joined the Astoria team two years ago, shortly after the completion of construction.

“It’s history to the community and Oakdale,” she said. “That we were able to come in and restore it and give it a nice shiny coat and fill it up with the joy that we have here is awesome.”

The “joy” Smith speaks of, comes by way of the residents who live at Astoria. A focus of quality care, along with keeping residents active and engaged has been a winning combination for the residents, their families, as well as the staff of 35 overseen by Smith.

“We’re here 24 hours,” Smith said of staffing, “myself and my health coordinator are on call 24 hours.”

The executive director also noted, Astoria is not a nursing home, but rather a senior living facility that follows a social model for its residents. Residents have individual studio apartments, as well as private accessible bathroom facilities. Meals are provided three times a day in the main dining room, as are snacks.

“Our philosophy is we treat everybody like family,” Smith shared.

In so doing, daily activities on property, as well as off are planned for residents. They are given a social activity calendar packed with daily activities. The goal, making sure they can live their life as independently as possible, while offering any support needed.

“What we have is called a bucket list,” the executive director said of outings offsite. “We ask them what they want to do. One time they wanted to go to San Francisco, so we put a trip to San Francisco together for them.

“They love the country drives. They just like getting out and seeing the country,” she added.

They also happen to love a parade. Through the help of Smith and her team, the residents have participated the past two years in the Oakdale Rodeo Parade, as well as the Christmas Parade and most recently the inaugural Oakdale July 4th Parade.

“They said they feel like celebrities,” Smith beamed. “Those moments of joy that we get to bring to them and experience, you know we’re not promised tomorrow and we just want to make every day count for them.”

In 2018 the group took second for most inspirational float in the Oakdale Rodeo Parade. An achievement ribbon now framed and placed predominantly for all who visit to see at Astoria.

As much as Smith, the staff and residents enjoy being out in the community, community engagement with them is just as treasured. Smith shared her appreciation for churches, Boy Scout groups, even Bloomingcamp Ranch Pie Shop known to stop by with free pies.

“It’s important, it really is,” she said with a voice filled with emotion of keeping them active and engaged. “They’re my family here. Why not give them the best? They deserve it. Making the residents laugh and seeing that smile on their face, that’s the best part.”

It’s a formula that seems to be working, for staff and residents alike.

“That’s what I love about Oakdale,” she concluded, “the families and community come in and visit on a regular basis.”