The Lodge in Chaska, as its name might imply, has just about every amenity you can imagine at an exclusive place with limited membership. There are high, wooden-beamed ceilings, large stuffed chairs, a fireplace, a library and an enclosed deck overlooking the Minnesota River Valley.

Membership at the Lodge is also strictly limited -- to those age 55 and older.

This Lodge is part of the Chaska Community Center.

The Lodge is one element in a broad effort by Chaska and other Carver County communities to cater not just to senior citizens but to what health officials call "active older adults."

The effort seems to be paying off. Recently, Money magazine named Carver as one of the three best counties in the country for longevity, with a life expectancy of 80.9 years.

"It's wonderful to be recognized on a national forum," said Rae Jean Madsen, of the Carver County Public Health Department. "The message is that people are looking to see what they can do to take care of themselves, and it's wonderful that Money magazine is recognizing that."

The magazine was especially effusive about Carver County's commitment to exercise.

"Physical fitness is a major goal," wrote the magazine, which ranked only Montgomery County in Maryland and Story County in Iowa as better places for a long life.

"I don't know if we are doing things better or differently than other counties, but we like to think so," said County Board Commissioner Jim Ische.


Carver County officials said their focus on exercise for older adults is by design, pointing to the county's GoCarverGo website ( as a prime example.

The interactive site helps the county's 70,000 residents find places to walk, bike, swim, run or enjoy other physical activities.

"Anytime you can promote physical exercise I think is good for all concerned," Ische said. "We're working on keeping people [well] through the entirety of their lives."

The GoCarverGo site was developed by the Health Department and the county's cities in collaboration with private firms such as Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.

"The vision for active living in our community is that all Carver County residents, no matter age or ability, will have access to opportunities to engage in daily activity and healthy lifestyles," said Tracy Bade, a planner with the Public Health Department.

Among the other things the department does is conduct walkable community workshops to make such activities available to everyone.

"If a community is walkable for older adults and the less able -- those in wheelchairs and with walkers -- and for younger children -- those in strollers and in wagons -- our communities will be walkable for everyone," Bade said in an e-mail.

But Carver County officials point out that they also target other aspects of life to help seniors stay active and engaged. The Lodge, for example, has a variety of cooking classes, community outings, card-playing days and other social activities.

"The social opportunities, the physical opportunities -- keeping seniors active -- that has always been important," said Tom Redman, director of the Chaska Community Center.

In Carver County, he said, "It's sort of like a tradition. There's always been a sense of how grandmas and grandpas are valued as part of the family life."

Heron Marquez Estrada • 612-673-4280