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Leader of Via Christi Village in Hays: Residents 'thrive as part of a new community'

James Thorns

David Karlin is passionate about creating a great home for elderly Kansans.

As the executive director of Via Christi Village in Hays, Karlin and his team of caregivers work to build a vibrant community where older residents can develop new passions, make new friends and enjoy their final years in dignity and grace.

“We have to break the stereotype our society has of nursing homes and elder care,” says Karlin, who has spent most of his career serving in senior living communities. “The perception of many people is that nursing homes are where you go to die.

“Our communities are places where people go to heal, to recover and to thrive as part of a new community,” he says. “We aren’t pretending to be somebody’s home. This is our elders’ home and they’re still living life to the fullest and, in some cases, getting new passions and new interests in life.”

Via Christi Village in Hays is part of Ascension Senior Living, one of the nation’s largest, faith-based, non-profit organizations committed to providing vibrant senior care options for the nation’s elderly. Ascension Senior Living has senior living communities in 11 states, providing a variety of long-term care, including independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing, post-acute care and live-at-home options.

James Thorns' story

James Thorns, one of Via Christi Village’s more than 130 residents in Hays, has a built a busy retirement life that illustrates Karlin’s point. 

James, 82, spent a career in food service at Fort Hays State University and serving as a custodian for the First Presbyterian Church and the Ellis County Historical Society. 

After he retired and moved into Via Christi Village, the staff made sure he could continue his passion for volunteering at the historical society’s museum and attending the Presbyterian Church each Sunday, providing transportation so that he can continue this part of his life.

At the museum, he works in the archives preserving historical photos so they don’t deteriorate over time. “I like volunteering and using my hands,” he says with a smile.

The Via Christi caregivers dote on James – just as they care for each resident – and his collection of more than 70 cat figurines. “I enjoy living here at Via Christi Village – I have good food and good care and I still get to do the things I love doing, like volunteering and going to my church each week,” James says.

Hearing the comments of James and other residents is what motivates Karlin and other Ascension Senior Living caregivers.

“Our associates who work here do what they do because they have a great respect for life and a great respect for our elders,” Karlin says. “They truly become the friends and family of our residents. When a resident passes away, we mourn their loss just like we would our own family members. I am grateful that I get to serve with associates who care so deeply for our residents.”

Ascension Senior Living offers a variety of resources to help you learn more about questions to ask and factors to consider when making a long-term care decision.