Editor's note: This story is part of a series looking back at some of the biggest stories of 2018. Find the rest of the series here: Top Ten 2018.

St. Crispin Living Community, a campus that offers a full range of options for seniors, from independent living and assisted living to specialized memory care, short-term and long-term care, and skilled nursing care, opened this spring to meet the needs of a rapidly increasing senior population.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

As Minnesota's only new nursing home in decades-because the state has a moratorium on construction-the facility required years of planning, plenty of innovation, passage of a state law and then more planning before actual construction.

The 64-bed St. Crispin Care Center is designed as a community with four neighborhoods on two floors, according to administrator and CEO Jake Goering. Each neighborhood has 16 fully furnished private suites and shared living spaces for dining and gathering.

The community offers a home to seniors, including couples, as they transition through different phases of life. With this "continuum of care," Goering said, "People can age in place."

In mid-December they reached one milestone - a full house. Goering said that is a good sign, however, "you don't expect to be full every day, nor do you want to be," he said, "because if you are, that means you don't have beds available after surgery and discharge. We are about where we want to be."

Goering wants to raise funds to expand the living space in the memory care unit. One idea for this would be to add a solarium.

He said this would "add to the quality of life for folks, to have a secure area where people can roam around, and we can keep them safe. Anything we can do to increase natural light coming in is good."

He is also hoping to add a three-season porch which would create "a situation where people can get that outside feel or at least get some fresh air and be in a safe environment," he said.

The safety of residents is a top priority for St. Crispin Living Community, and because the entire building is secure, people with cognitive issues can live anywhere in the building.

"We've got redundant technologies in place to keep people safe," Goering said. "It's really non-invasive. It's behind the scenes. We've got things like electromagnetic locking doors and a camera system so we can keep people safe."

One other use of technology that is working well is a smartphone communication system. Traditional call systems let staff members know when they are needed, but adding the cellphones into the system makes it possible to talk directly to guests and residents.

"They will have the ability to talk one-on-one with their care providers and get an immediate response," Goering said. "It's about communication. It keeps us alert to people's needs, so we are able to respond. The human voice is very reassuring."

The phone system will also improve staff communication. They will be able to receive warnings if a problem arises, and they will be able to chart their services - writing down when they deliver a service or tracking changes in an individual's status instead of waiting until they get back to a computer.

"We can do instant communication," Goering said. "On a day-by-day, moment-to-moment basis, it's the staff to resident communication that is the best enhancement."

Throughout the planning stages of St. Crispin Living Community, staff members have worked with a Community Advisory Committee to gather insights on what area residents want and need for senior care services, according to Chris Boldt, vice president of operations with the Benedictine Health System.

"Since this project was first envisioned, it has evolved over several years with one goal - to meet the needs and desires of area residents for senior care services," Boldt said. "Although it's taken some time, St. Crispin Living Community will emerge as a true home for area residents that is inviting, family friendly, and a place where individuals can live, recover from illness and spend time with their family in comfort and with support from our professional caregivers."