25 years and still going strong at O’Brien Court

Evelyn and Russ Buterbaugh look over the treats set out for the people attending the 25th anniversary of the opening of O’Brien Court last Thursday. Photo by Per Peterson

By Per Peterson

O’Brien Court made an immediate impact on the Tracy community and the surrounding area when it opened its doors on Oct. 1, 1994. That impact is still being felt today.

O’Brien Court residents and staff celebrated the facility’s 25th anniversary last Thursday, a little more than 25 years since the first residents moved into the 30-unit complex.

Cindy Swenhaugen has been there from the beginning. She started out in housekeeping and eventually took over for Val McKinney as the O’Brien Court housing coordinator. That was about 15 years ago.

“Two weeks before it opened I was here,” Swenhaugen said.

Swenhaugen said having Sanford attached to O’Brien Court only adds to the offerings of O’Brien Court.

“It’s so nice, because people can put their parents and loved ones in here and they know that when you pull that cord, there’s someone there right away,” Swenhaugen said, referring to the pull cords in each room that connect residents to a 24-hour emergency response system. “Plus there’s activities — the socialization part is so nice. I love it. I can pick on the people and they can pick on me back. It’s a nice place to work. I always say I probably have the best job.”

Swenhaugen said there are currently three empty rooms at O’Brien Court. Each apartment has a complete kitchen, living room, bedroom, bath and individually-controlled heating and cooling. There are four different types of apartment styles and sizes.

“We’ve been really slow for about the last year, but it’s picking up now — I think the winters kind of scare people,” she said. “We’re getting younger people, too. Instead of the 95-year-olds, we’re getting people in their 70s and 80s. What they like to do has really changed over the years. When we first opened it was cards and bingo — until 9 o’clock at night sometimes. And then for awhile it was more like ‘Maybe I don’t even want to come out; now it’s back to bingo and cards and socialization. It’s nice.”

Swenhaugen said places like O’Brien Court dispel the stigma of the old-time nursing homes in many ways.

“It’s not a nursing home — that’s the stigma we have to get over,” she said. “People think, ‘Oh, O’Brien Court, that’s the nursing home.’ No, it’s an apartment building, it’s their home.”