James Johnson, participant in Wilder Customized Living

Wilder Customized Living Services Helps Saint Paul Hi-Rise Residents Age in Place

After nearly a year of hospitalization and rehabilitation following knee surgery, James Johnson was ready to go home. Unfortunately, the home he had shared with his friend for 27 years needed too many modifications for him to live in while using a wheelchair. Without other housing options, James might have been at risk of premature placement in a nursing home.

Instead, James moved into a one-bedroom apartment at Hamline Hi-Rise, a public housing site for older adults with low incomes in Saint Paul. With assistance from Wilder Customized Living services, James has lived independently in his own apartment for the last five years. Customized Living staff check on him daily, manage his medication and help him schedule appointments. Once a week, cleaners freshen up his apartment.

“They’re friendly. They do good work. It helps me because I can’t do very much walking. It’s hard to sling a mop in a wheelchair,” James says with a chuckle.

Program Provides Flexible Services for Independent Living  

Wilder Healthy Aging and Caregiving brings Customized Living services to older adults and adults with medical, mental health or other disabilities at two Saint Paul public housing sites. Participants receive daily medical and functional living support that helps them live on their own.

Participants live in public housing with neighbors who may or may not receive services. At Ravoux Hi-Rise, Wilder provides services for residents of all ages with chronic conditions or  mental health needs. At Hamline Hi-Rise, where James lives, Wilder provides services tailored to older adults. “This is a way for people to age in place,” says Jennifer Baker,  manager for Customized Living at Wilder.

Every participant in Wilder Customized Living is offered housekeeping and laundry services, medication set-up and monitoring, 24-hour emergency response and assistance from on-site staff, service coordination and more. Participants may also receive services such as bathing, grooming and dressing and support from a social worker. The services are flexible; some participants, like James, use just a little support to live independently.

Private Apartment, Friendships Make Hamline Feel Like Home

James was employed at hotels for most of his working years. His last job was at a local candy company, but he was unable to continue working because of injuries to his foot and knee. After surgery, hospitalization and a stay in a transitional care unit, James heard about his new living option at Hamline when a manager of the program came to see him. “It’s nice that this got set up for me,” he says.

In James’ apartment, a John Wayne wall clock keeps time above the recliner in his living room. Swords passed down by an uncle from an unknown war decorate the wall. Shelves of DVDs hold movies he likes to watch. Below James’ TV is a framed picture of his children and grandchildren, who live out of state.

When he leaves his apartment, James says hello to other residents as he moves through the building. He eats lunch in the Hi-Rise dining center. “I’m meeting friends and acquaintances,” James says. “I greet people and if they need help, I help them. It’s my home.”


They’re friendly. They do good work. It helps me because I can’t do very much walking.

James Johnson, Customized Living participant

What Participants Think About Customized Living

What Customized Living participants say

  • 84 percent say their health has improved or stayed the same since moving to Wilder Customized Living
  • 84 percent feel that the program is doing an excellent or good job of helping them with the things they say are most important to them
  • 90 percent would recommend the program to others