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Finding a Home between Assistance, Independence

Almost three decades ago, when Franciscan Villa began to admit laypeople alongside the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother who lived there, nothing but fields, woods and cows were nearby.

Now, the stately convent next door is empty and the campus sits amid a residential construction boom a few miles from a Bass Pro Shops store. As the area around the assisted-living center and nursing home has changed, so has the state's environment for caring for the elderly.

"It's kind of an evolving industry, to tell you the truth," said Dorya Huser, who oversees long-term care for the state Health Department.

The 15 nuns who live in a wing at Franciscan Villa, which has 79 assisted-living apartments and 80 nursing home and Alzheimer's beds, remain an important part of life there.

Another thing that hasn't changed is Franciscan Villa's mission. It was intended to be an affordable place for the elderly, and it is -- at least by the standards of its competitors, where rooms may resemble posh hotels and annual costs can reach $50,000.

Franciscan Villa charges about $1,670 a month for an assisted-living studio apartment and associated services such as meals and basic nursing care.

"For those who are looking, you won't find a more affordable place," administrator Ron Hoffman said. "We're not so concerned about how fancy we are, but we want to do it right," he said.

Tulsa-based St. John Health System's senior living portfolio includes Franciscan Villa, Frances Streitel Villas in Collinsville, Heartsworth House in Vinita, and senior apartments and long-term nursing care elsewhere.

A Changing Environment

Why They Go

Paying For It



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