Elder Network’s mission is to utilize resources, services and education to provide optimal quality of life for individuals impacted by the effects of aging. Elder Network reaches out to individuals, as well as their caregivers and emphasizes the importance of keeping aging loved ones in the home.


“The senior population is growing quite rapidly, more than people realize,” explains Laurie Marreel, executive director of Elder Network. According to Olmsted County Demographer, the population of individuals 65 years of age and older will increase from 16,600 in 2010 to 32,000 in 2025, with 20 percent living at poverty level. “We want to be ready, want to grow our capacity,” says Marreel. “Elder Network is about giving individuals the proper tools, so that they may be better equipped to safely delay nursing home placement. This benefits individuals, their families and the community at large, from a socioeconomic standpoint.” 

Elder Network also provides peer support, education, transportation services and friendly visiting opportunities, on a sliding fee. These resources help seniors adjust to the major life changes that can occur with aging and help decrease feelings of depression, anxiety or loneliness. The friendly visiting program connects caring volunteers with older adults who may be homebound and isolated from the community. 

“It’s really important, as most people will be in that situation. People live longer when they stay in the home, and most anybody would rather take that option, so we try to provide for that,” explains Lori Colwill, board member of Elder Network. 


Elder Network offers classes for caregivers, providing evidence-based education on what it means to age and offering support services to help caregivers communicate more effectively, learn to take care of themselves, reduce feelings of guilt or anger and aid in making tough decisions. The classes last six weeks and provide participants with invaluable connections and friendships.

“Elder Network is a hidden gem. We quietly take care of the elderly that are so vulnerable, as well as their care providers. Sometimes you are doing something for someone you love and never think of yourself as being their care provider,” Colwill comments. 

But being a caregiver comes with challenges. “You love this person you are taking care of, but you get exhausted,” Colwill says. “The relationship changes when you become a care provider—you have to learn to reach out.” The respite program offers adults with aging family members a chance to step out of the home and rest while volunteer companions assume the caregiving role. “You get disconnected when giving that support. You have to find out how to handle and work that relationship.” 


Elder Network invites the public to join them for the Spring Fever Annual Fundraiser on Saturday, April 18 at the Kahler Apache in Rochester. The theme of the evening is “Grow With Us!”, emphasizing Elder Network’s desire to grow alongside our aging population. The semi-formal evening begins with a social hour at 6 p.m., followed by dinner at 7 p.m. A program and dance will follow dinner, with a silent auction and music by the Reunion Band. 

While Elder Network does receive some government grant funding, the money from the grants must be matched by private donations. “We are at the capacity we can serve, and this fundraiser helps us to continue to expand and serve more,” explains Marreel. 

Tickets for the Spring Fever Annual Fundraiser are $75 and may be purchased at elder-network.org or by calling 507-285-5272.

Amanda Wingren is a freelance writer in the Rochester area.