Assisted Living Centers in Iowa Boast Lobby Art on Their Floors

Each floor's mural-type design has a special stone emphasis

Healthcare Building Ideas - October/November, 2006

by Ron Treister

old-fashioned threshing machine floor mural

Each floor mural is a one-of-a-kind masterpiece, signed and dated. This one depicts an old-fashioned threshing machine.

floor mural

Each mural depicts various scenes from locations throughout Iowa, and adds a welcoming touch for all who use and/or visit the facility to enjoy.

stone floor mural

The stone murals are pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle with hundreds of water jet-cut pieces of stone in a multitude of colors.

This lobby art, which is an honest-to-goodness stone mural (pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle with hundreds of water-jet-cut pieces of stone in a multitude of colors) depicts a rural scene set in a Jefferson County town, which distinguishes the property and adds a welcoming touch for all who use and/or visit the facility to enjoy.

When Sunny Brook was finally realized, the result was a facility in perfect harmony with Howell's philosophy of personal care. The integration of form and function were exactly what she had envisioned.

Readers should note that Sunny Brook/Fairfield was so successful, that Belilove went on to develop other locations through Iowa, each with a unique waterjet-cut stone mural in the lobby.

"In Mount Pleasant, we have a stone floor depicting an old-fashioned threshing machine. In Clinton, the floor has a stone mural of a Grant Wood theme," Aalto said. "Another facility has a racetrack stone mural on the lobby floor. We wanted to show themes of what each small town was famous for in each location on the lobby floor. We plan on continuing with this process. Each floor is a one-of-a-kind stone masterpiece, signed and dated. We think this adds a nice, calming and conversational touch to each facility."■

Ron Treister is president of Communicators International, a Portland, Maine-based marketing firm. He can be reached at

Over the past 20 years, assisted living Residences have become a new and popular category of senior living. The movement, aimed at providing personalized and caring home-like environments for seniors who require some form of daily assistance, is managed dedicated and enthusiastic professionals who strive to make the lives of seniors as fulfilling as possible.

One such devoted caregiver is Betty Howell of Fairfield, Iowa. With a professional business-like approach and a veritable heart of gold, the assisted living environment Howell created in southeastern Iowa has garnered national recognition.

Howell's involvement with assisted living developed over a period of time while she was employed as a nurse's aide at a traditional nursing home in Iowa. Howell recognized that some of the home's senior residents were not getting proper care, and that one major reason was that some living at the home full-time could most likely receive adequate care in just a few hours a day. Feeling strongly that a different approach could improve the quality of life for all seniors involved in the situation, Howell invited two of the residents at the nursing home to live in her own home.

A new approach

The experiment was a success, and Howell's idea took off so quickly that soon she had to move to a new house to accommodate the then nine seniors that now enjoyed her new approach of assisted living. For the next six years, Howell cooked, cleaned and cared for her patients, while her reputation for superb personal care began to spread across the state.

It wasn't long before Howell had a growing list of patients seeking her care, and when she met Jim and Ginger Belilove, Fairfield residents wishing to place Ginger's mother in an assisted living program, Howell and the Belilove's quickly came to a conclusion: Fairfield needed a beautiful and modern assisted living facility large enough to meet the demands of the region.

With the new plan in-hand, funds were secured from local resources, a HUD program was implemented, which guaranteed a loan for construction and a permanent mortgage, and Howell began planning Sunny Brook. This new assisted living program soon after adopted a motto consistent with its vision: "All the comforts of home without the worry."

"Residents should feel that this is their home," Howell said. "They bring furniture, pictures and personal items. They wear their own clothes, plan their own activities and come and go as they please. Sunny Brook's aides provide the assistance that they ask for, getting dressed or taking a bath and medication, but the aides don't control the residents' lives."

A large sign in the employee break room states this mission clearly: "Sunny Brook residents don't live in our institution - we work in their home." The large spacious and private rooms that Howell designed for Sunny Brook embody her philosophy of care. And with individual temperature controls and state-of-the-art communication devices, seniors at Sunny Brook enjoy a level of personal comfort that Howell envisioned years ago as a nurse's aide.

Flooring vision

Sunny Brook's large common areas and dining rooms add to the ambience, but Belilove had an idea that would eventually set Sunny Brook totally apart, suggesting an element never before used in an assisted living environment. Belilove's manufacturing business, Creative Edge Master Shop, fabricates specialty flooring for hotels and hospitals using waterjet technology to create intricate masterpieces. A world-wide leader in waterjet design, Belilove's partner, Harri Aalto, went to work. For the lobby at Sunny Brook, Aalto created a design that would become the trademark of the new assisted living home in Fairfield.

Belilove stated, "We thought, 'why not create a piece of art for the lobby of the assisted living home, just as we do for hotels and hospitals?' Harri conceived the design for a flooring piece which represents the community and geography to demonstrate the local roots of this facility, while providing a special beauty and appeal for the residents and their families."