Ecumen Helping Churches Realize Senior Housing Opportunities in an Aging America

Lutheran senior housing partnership provides model for expanding ministries and revenues.

Sandpoint, ID, February 12, 2009 --( – Churches, such as First Lutheran Church in Sandpoint, Idaho, and their senior housing development partner Ecumen, see aging as an opportunity to help people live better and expand ministries. The two recently collaborated on Luther Park at Sandpoint, a new senior housing community that opened in December 2008.

“We saw a greater purpose for the vacant land adjacent to our church than simply selling it to the highest bidder,” said Pastor Olson. “We wanted to build upon the Great Commandment of loving your neighbor as yourself and the Great Commission of spreading Jesus’ word and work. That led to our congregational vision of creating this community that will keep seniors vitally engaged in our church, will nurture multi-generational relationships, and will help us realize new revenue streams that will support and help us to expand our ministry.”

Ecumen, affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and one of the country’s largest non-profit senior housing, services and development companies, led development of Luther Park of Sandpoint and now manages it for First Lutheran Church, which owns Luther Park.

In addition to being physically connected to the church, Luther Park of Sandpoint provides a range of housing and service options from independent living to assisted living and specialized memory care all at one location, lessening the need for a person to move when he or she needs more services. With Ecumen’s catered living service, residents purchase services a la carte as they want or need them rather than purchasing one-size-fits-all packages.

“For churches that own vacant land, senior housing can be a very rewarding use of that space,” said Steve Ordahl, senior vice president of business development at Ecumen. “Quality senior housing greatly expands a sense of community by fostering purpose and service to others, and it can bring new members into the church and its ministry.”

“Our society for too long has shelved seniors,” said Pastor Olson. “We wanted nothing to do with that. Luther Park at Sandpoint honors the wisdom and experience of elders while emphasizing aging is all about living.”

Luther Park features Great Western lodge-style architecture on three floors. It abounds with local touches, such as a grand fireplace featuring area stone, timber archways, and branding irons from area ranches incorporated into the stair railings. Luther Park has 60 one- and two-bedroom apartments.

It features yoga, massage, art classes, and, of course, church services are just a short jaunt through the interconnected walkway to First Lutheran Church. Luther Park also features a memory care neighborhood featuring 27 apartments.

Luther Park, like other Ecumen communities, features QuietCare technology from GE Heathcare. Ecumen was one of the country’s first senior housing and service providers to use the proactive technology that helps identify small health conditions early and helps people maintain independence.

“Our focus in creating this community is to empower people and give them as much control as possible over their choices, even when they need more assistive services,” said Ordahl. “Aging is all about living, and churches can be a wonderful partner in ensuring that is the case for many more people in the U.S.”

About Ecumen
Ecumen ( is based in Shoreview, Minn., and is one of the largest non-profit senior housing companies in the United States. The name Ecumen comes from the word ecumenical, which in turn is derived from the Greek word for home: "Oikos." Ecumen works to create "home" for older adults wherever they choose to live. Ecumen is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and has 4,000 team members.

Mike Yanke