Realife Cooperative: a neighborhood under one roof

Realife Cooperative of West St. Paul is nestled on a hill with plenty of trees making it not feel like it’s in the middle of a city. Above, a sign in the front entrance welcomes new residents to their new home.

Nestled in the hills near the Mississippi River sits Realife Cooperative of West St. Paul.

Barb Aydt has lived at Realife since 2008. The Smerud’s, Loren and Mary Ann, have been here since May 2014, and Dave Ettel and his wife Ann have been calling this independent living community home since June 2015.

All of them had one thing in common when they realized they wanted to start looking for a different place to call home.

Dave said, “I was looking for more carefree living.” 

Loren and Mary Ann had lived in their home for 47 years, and one day they recognized they didn’t need such a big house. 

Barb emphasized that, having invested in cooperative living, each member seems to enjoy a more relaxed life style that often includes more travel, expanded hobbies, volunteering and participating in community life.

With cooperative living, residents who call themselves members, purchase a share of the cooperative.  Members pay a monthly fee that covers the mortgage, maintenance and operating costs.


‘Just perfect’

When touring different senior living facilities, Mary Ann said she had her list of requirements. “I wanted a ground-floor unit facing south or west because I need sunlight. At Realife, I got a front unit and I look out on the same kind of beautiful hostas I had at my house.” 

Barb and her husband Jim thought they had an idea of what they wanted, which included two bedrooms, two full baths and a huge living room.

When they moved in, no floor plans were available that fit everything on their checklist. They chose a one-bedroom, with one-and-half baths, kitchen, den, and living room. Said Barb, “It was just perfect!”

Meanwhile Dave’s wife got everything on her checklist, including a laundry room inside their apartment.  As Dave said, “If she’s happy, I’m happy.”

Realife Cooperative of West St. Paul is close to a busline,  a variety of stores and churches, and members appreciate nearby Thompson Park’s walking paths. It’s minutes from downtown St. Paul and, conveniently, there’s a medical clinic within yards of the cooperative.


Own little community

When someone walks in the front door at Realife, they will see a calligraphied motto above the entry; “A neighborhood under one roof.” It’s apparent that this sense of community is experienced by the members.

Phyllis Beatty, who has been a member with her husband Stuart since November 2014, said there are many social activities available for people, and she enjoys them all, saying in jest “I have more friends than I know what to do with.”

While there are plenty of opportunities to interact with other members of the community, people can still do their own thing and be part of the community. Dave said residents can do as little or as much as they want, like participating in card night, or staying in their apartment, curled up with a good book and a cup of tea. 

Loren said everyone in the community is responsible for each other. “We have people who call each other every morning just to see that they are okay.”

The cooperative provides a van and utilizes their volunteer drivers should people need a ride for any reason.

An open house is coming up on Saturday, April 9, from 11 – 3 p.m., and the tour guides will be Realife residents. Phyllis said, “We want our visitors to have an experience of what it might be like to live here, and who their friends and neighbors could be. “

Coming to this open house will be a great opportunity to see the mission statement in action where members are truly committed to the cooperative and one another.

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