Mia – December 24, 2018

Today being Christmas Eve has put me in a family mood. I’m thinking about not only my husband and children, but also my parents and grandparents.

Right after Thanksgiving, my dad had his right knee replaced. That’s a routine surgical procedure for men his age—he’s in his mid-60s—and he’s healing well, although it will be another couple of months before he’ll be able to hit the links or the treadmill.

Dad is lucky he’s in good shape and has my mom to take care of him during his convalescence. But to my surprise, his relatively minor surgery prompted my parents to have a serious discussion about what will happen when they no longer function as well as they do now.

My mom raised the issue with me when I called to check on Dad’s progress. “We’re looking forward to many more years of independent living, but there comes a point in your 70s or 80s when you need additional help,” she said. “It happened with your Dad’s parents, and I’m sorry to say they weren’t very well prepared.”

My grandparents lived in Florida when their health began to decline. My parents visited them as often as possible to ensure they were receiving good care and to try to encourage them to move back to Chicago and into The Danish Home. The community was co-founded by my maternal great-great-great grandmother in 1891, and my family has always considered it a second home. Sadly, my grandparents passed away before they were able to make the move.

“I don’t want to end up in an impersonal setting like they did,” my mom told me. “The Danish Home offers a much different experience, and Dad and I agree that’s where we want to go when we no longer feel comfortable living on our own.”

I was relieved to learn that my parents have planned for their future needs. So many people don’t think about it until their health or strength deteriorates or they lose a spouse.

By 2050, a fifth of Americans will be 65 or older and about 4 percent will be 85 or older, according to the Congressional Budget Office. More than half of them will have trouble managing two or more “activities of daily living” such as dressing, walking and bathing. And 56 percent of Americans aged 57 to 61 will spend at least one night in a nursing home during their lifetimes, according to a recent study. Yet, it’s almost a given that such facilities—there are 15,600 of them in the U.S.— are among the very last places most Americans would choose to spend their twilight years.

A large, snow-covered mansion fronted by American and Danish flags is decorated for Christmas.

The Danish Home is aptly named, as it not only looks like a real home, but feels like one too – and residents are the first ones to say so.

Why do certain senior living communities get such a bad rap? Well, some of them deserve it. Among the warning signs of substandard care are high staff turnover, residents who are dehydrated or poorly nourished, unanswered call lights, and noticeable physical or emotional changes in your loved one. But even substandard care is hugely expensive, running into thousands of dollars per month.

I think my mom heard me sniffling over the phone as I pictured her and my dad in such an environment. “Oh, honey, don’t worry,” she said. “We’re lucky. We have an excellent alternative, and we’re planning ahead.”

Unlike communities that are licensed to provide only independent or assisted living, The Danish Home is a boutique continuing care retirement community. That means it is equally welcoming and appropriate for residents who want to live an independent and active lifestyle and those who need help with activities of daily living or memory support.

The Danish Home offers comfortable apartments decorated with residents’ own possessions and maintained by a housekeeping team. There’s also the beautiful park-like grounds with a walking path, fitness center, and lots of conveniences, including a store and hair salon. The Danish Home also features lovely common rooms and a dining room that serves all my favorite Danish dishes.

The dining room will be expanded and relocated so that it overlooks the garden, thanks to the community’s ongoing $10.5 million “Our Future in Focus” capital campaign. The campaign will earmark $8.5 million for building improvements, including the addition of new apartments on the second floor and new suites on the first floor. The Danish Home’s medical facilities will also be updated.

An intricate plate with metrics on the side.

The Danish Home’s “Our Future in Focus” campaign hopes to raise $10.5 million for capital improvements, increased programming and charitable care.

Our friend Farfar is an active nonagenarian who has lived at The Danish Home since his sweet wife, Sigrid, passed away. Farfar takes advantage of everything the community offers, including lots of field trips to regional cultural institutions and many special events. He’s looking forward to the upcoming changes to the home and is also reassured that the comfy atmosphere will remain.

As my mother and I know so well, the centerpiece of The Danish Home is its big heart. It feels like a real home, not a “facility,” with paintings on the walls and lots of quaint Scandinavian touches. Like Denmark itself, the community exudes hygge and provides plenty of opportunities for residents to socialize. And thanks to The Danish Home Foundation, residents who exhaust their financial resources receive charitable care.

“You guys couldn’t pick a better spot to grow old,” I told my mom. “And whenever the time comes for you to take that step, you can count on me to visit—especially when they’re serving smørrebrød for lunch.”