“I was so extremely excited to see my mom in person! Physical presence is so important,” said Sue Santucci, who hadn’t seen her mother, Mary, face-to-face since February.

Until just over a month ago, friends and relatives of residents at The Danish Home of Chicago, a boutique senior community in Norwood Park, had to make do with waving to their loved ones and displaying cheery signs and posters through glass windows and doors.

Now, with permission from the State of Illinois, The Danish Home has opened its outdoor garden area to socially distanced, masked visits in person with no more than two guests per resident and three families per scheduled time.

Visitors are also pre-screened for symptoms of COVID-19, and their temperatures are taken at the property’s outdoor gate entrance.

Despite the restrictions, residents and family members are overjoyed to meet in person again, albeit six feet apart and without hugs or physical contact.

“I talk to my mom all the time about COVID and how important it is to stay safe and how lucky she is that she has such great people at The Danish Home to take care of her,” said Santucci, adding that, despite the warm weather, the shaded canopy in The Danish Home’s beautifully blooming garden makes her near daily visits “pleasant and comfortable.”

Agreed Amy Henning, daughter of resident Willy Christensen: “Families totally understand that [The Danish Home] has to do what is necessary to keep residents safe. Residents are their number one concern. They’ve also done a great job keeping them safely active and engaged.”

Henning and her brothers are relishing outdoor visits with their father, who moved to The Danish Home from Florida shortly before the pandemic reached global proportions. A former contractor, Christensen was instrumental in physical improvements to The Danish Home. He and his late wife were also active with the home and other Danish-American organizations throughout the years.

“I grew up with The Danish Home,” said Henning. “My dad feels like he’s come home here. He wants for nothing, and that says it all.” Christensen’s current partner, a woman he knew from the “Danish gang” years ago, is also a resident. When she comes out of quarantine after a recent trip away, said Henning, “he’ll have his roommate again.”

Bob and RoseMarie Calderisi are also enjoying a “homecoming” with Bob’s sister, Donna. “It’s wonderful to be with her again,” said RoseMarie, Donna’s sister-in-law. Formerly limited to “window chats,” the Calderisis are loving the longer (45 minutes) and more personal family time that outside visits allow. “It’s more comforting to talk face-to-face. We’re all so happy we can do this now.”

While family, friends and residents eagerly await the day they can hug and welcome their loved ones inside again, they take great comfort in their time together in the garden.