Ingrid – August 6, 2018
I visited my friend “Farfar” last week at The Danish Home, and for the first time ever, he did not greet me with a smile. Farfar, my roommate Lindsay’s grandfather, is always the picture of positivity, but that day he was visibly sad.
“What’s wrong, Farfar?” I asked him. (I’ve never been one to beat around the bush.) “I’m feeling very bad for my friend,” he said in his Danish accent. “Since his wife died, he’s been very lonely in his house and doesn’t seem like himself anymore. I’m worried about him.”
Farfar told me about his long-time friendship with Lars, whom he met shortly after Farfar and Sigrid came to America in 1949. They were neighbors of Lars and his wife in Chicago’s Humboldt Park area, where both couples had recently moved from Denmark.
Unlike Farfar, who came to The Danish Home with Sigrid in 1984 well before she became ill, Lars remained in his home after his wife passed away.
“Farfar, are you lonely? I asked him. My question piqued the interest of other residents sitting near us in The Danish Home’s gathering room.
“No, not even a little,” he promptly replied. “There is so much to do here, and everyone is so nice and friendly. There is always someone to talk to, eat with, play a game with. We go on outings and it’s like a real family going on an adventure together.” Farfar paused for a moment, then said, “We are a real family.”
His blue eyes misted. “I miss Sigrid terribly,” he said, “and I can’t imagine living by myself without her. I’m so glad she lived at The Danish Home with me for 10 years and got to enjoy all the activities and wonderful things here. I feel like a part of her is still here with me.”
After my visit with Farfar that day, I got to thinking about loneliness and how it affects just about everyone at some point in their lives. I recently turned 30, and while it was a big milestone, I was also a little blue because I’m not married yet and am not even in a serious relationship. Lindsay and I have a lot of fun as bachelorettes in the city, but I definitely feel like something is missing.
This got me to thinking even more about older people like Farfar’s friend Lars. While I am so grateful that Farfar is happy at The Danish Home, I want to help him help his friend somehow. I did a little research on seniors and loneliness and found that it’s pretty much an epidemic, especially for those who live alone. Some people even think there should be a National Senior Living Awareness Week (turns out, it does exist!) to tell the story of senior living better.
In all my research, one thing that really stood out were the findings that for those who do live in senior housing, non-profit, boutique communities like The Danish Home are preferable to larger, less intimate residences.
While I’ve never talked to Farfar on the phone before, I called him last night. “Ingrid! Are you all right? Is Lindsay okay?” he asked anxiously when he heard my voice. “Yes, we’re fine,” I assured him. “I was just thinking that we should call Lars and talk to him about The Danish Home.”