March 13, 2014
This month marks an amazing anniversary for The Danish Home of Chicago! March 11th was the 123rd anniversary of the very first meeting of the 12 Founding Women. These ladies made it their mission to found a home here in Chicago to care for elderly Danish-Americans, having their very first meeting in 1891 and opening the doors to The Danish Old People’s Home in 1902. Today, 112 years after its opening, The Danish Home of Chicago still stands as a beacon of dignified care, independence and comfort for all.
The Danish Home provides residents and their families peace of mind due to their wonderful amenities, beautiful grounds and ideal continuing care options. I can attest to this, having Mormor there for the past several years and visiting often. It is so comforting to have her in a community where she is happy and loving life!
Today, senior communities and the various continuing care options they provide has become a reliable option for retirees. However, the senior living communities popular today are far different from the humble beginnings of elder care as institutions and almshouses.
The history of long-term care in the US had a somewhat distressing start. Elder care reformations began in the 1800’s. The life expectancy was much lower in those times, and when adults became older their children or grandchildren took care of them. After all, many families lived in a multi-generational household at that time. However, due to industrialization and transportation advances in the late 19th and early 20th centuries the American family structure changed dramatically. A dependency on mechanization and industry cast a shadow on an agrarian lifestyle, as people began to move to more populated areas for better opportunities. Families began to disseminate. In large industrialized cities, such as Chicago, economic hardships eventually caused many people to become incapable of caring for their elders, or even their children. The well being of the most needy became a predicament for the city, and concerned citizens decided to help. The Society for The Danish Old People’s Home was born from this need.
Life has changed dramatically since the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. For instance, in 1850 the average life expectancy was under 40 years of age. Today it is 78.7. Advances in medicine and education have dramatically improved our quality of life, providing the opportunity for a long retirement and a demand for retirement communities. The many amenities and quality of continuing care options available at these communities offers a tantalizing lifestyle for many retirees and they have become increasingly popular over the past 20 years. For example, this Leading Age article from 2012 states that, “77% of Baby Boomers would be likely to consider a continuing care retirement community.” Times have certainly changed.
What hasn’t changed throughout time are the concerned, compassionate and dedicated people who have made it their mission to care for others. In our case they are the 12 Founding Women who began a society providing a solution for the elderly to live out their lives with dignity, and that legacy still continues today at The Danish Home.
On March 11, 1891 the Founding Women met at the Chicago home of Emma Thorsen to discuss the idea of founding a society to care for elderly Danish-Americans in Chicago. The members in attendance were: (click on the link to learn more!)
Mrs. J. Thorsen (Emma)
Miss M. Thorsen (Mary)
Mrs. Ed. Mikkelsen (Anna)
Mrs. George Olsen (Margrethe)
Mrs. C. Pheffer
Mrs. Alf. Rose
Mrs. John P. Hansen
Mrs. George Sandler
Mrs. Chr. Alstrup
Mrs. H. Skov
Miss Wilhelmine Pheiffer
What is your family’s personal story of elder care? Did your grandparents live close by or far away? Did you help care for them or did they live in a senior community?
I’d love to hear about your experience. Leave a comment below!
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LeadingAge offers information and support to help people make the most of the aging experience. The mission of LeadingAge is to expand the world of possibilities for aging. Membership includes 6,000 not-for-profit organizations representing the entire field of aging services, 39 state partners, and hundreds of businesses, consumer groups, foundations, and research partners.
Life Services Network is a statewide association that has represented the leading providers of the complete continuum of services for older adults, including nursing care, supportive and assisted living, senior housing and home and community based services for over 75 years. With a diverse membership now numbering over 500 providers, LSN is the largest eldercare association in Illinois.