While talking on the phone with my grandparents, my Grandpa mentioned that their exercise class had been moved to their balconies. Momentarily confused, I asked him what he meant, and he described how the instructors led classes from the street through a megaphone while residents followed along on their balconies.

I needed to see this for myself. So on a bright Monday morning I set out to watch my grandparents run through their balcony routine at Trillium Woods, their senior living community in Plymouth, Minn. After seeing the balcony exercises, I talked to Colleen O’Neil, the community’s Fitness Center Manager, and she explained that staff was inspired by videos of balcony singing and dancing around the world, and so the center decided to adopt their own version in an effort to continue providing wellness programming to their residents.

While unconventional and weather-dependent, the outdoor exercises allow the residents to interact with the instructors, and the experience gets them outside, where they can see their neighbors. O’Neil reported that the number of residents who participate is, in fact, higher than they had before transitioning to outdoor exercise and that the residents have responded very positively.

As for a true happy hour where residents can come together, glasses of wine in hands – that will have to wait until the pandemic subsides. But in the meantime, they get to socialize and exercise from the safe, socially distant perch of their balconies.


In April, one local long-term care facility got the all-clear in COVID-19 cases, one of the few in the state to reach such a milestone. Almanac reporter Mary Lahammer takes you inside Presbyterian Homes, which, as of the publish date, had only a handful of coronavirus cases among residents and staff.

As Minnesotans looks for ways to show their support for healthcare workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, we took a look back in time to celebrate the contributions that four women – all named Ruth – made to the state’s public health system.

Since March 2020, we’ve been chronicling the impact of the pandemic on the state – and our collection, Coronavirus in Minnesota, dives into topics that range from what it’s like to be pregnant in this uncertain time to socially distant geocaching tips to profiles of artists, healthcare workers and 2020 high-school graduates aiming in their quest to be good neighbors.