STAR Program: Maintaining Independent Living

For Elta Mae Breitag, life at Fifth Avenue Apartments in downtown Aberdeen keeps her busy. She and her neighbors get together regularly for conversation and card games. Monday is gin rummy day, Wednesday they play garbage poker and Friday is reserved for Tripoli. "I really enjoy it," said Breitag.

Breitag spent much of her life in Frederick, where she and her husband, Fred, farmed and produced honey. Health concerns caused them to move to Aberdeen. He passed away in 1986. Breitag's children live in South Dakota and Missouri. When her family isn't around the Fifth Avenue community fills her days.

In Mobridge, Rhonda Reiger is a 50-something disabled veteran with a quick laugh and large family of adopted aunts and grandmas at River Ridge Apartments. "I'm the youngest brat around here," Reiger stated with a chuckle. "The people who live here are in their 70s, 80s and 90s."

Both Fifth Avenue and River Ridge apartments are part of SDHDA's STAR (Service to Aging Residents) program. The twenty-eight participating STAR properties are scattered across the state in twenty-one communities. The program coordinates with property managers to provide supportive services to residents of SDHDA-financed apartment communities. The STAR program serves as a link between residents and service, and programs to allow them to maintain a high quality of life while living independently in their homes.

Perhaps one of the most important benefits of the STAR program is to help foster a sense of community among the elderly and people with disabilities living in the properties. "We have a lot of potlucks, birthday parties, seasonal parties and bingo games," Reiger said of her tight-knit River Ridge community. Her neighbors are like family, "I adopt them all. They are pretty good folks."