Liam – September 10, 2019

My old college friend Jason’s son, Derrick, started junior high school a couple of weeks ago. Maybe I’m remembering sixth grade differently, maybe I just didn’t do my homework, but I don’t remember having big assignments like Derrick’s so early in the school year. It’s about World War II. Jason, knowing I’m a fan of history, asked me if I wanted to help Derrick with his project.

“Amber (his wife) and I don’t really know where to start with him, and we figured that you could probably rattle off tons of information and resources,” Jason said to me on the phone.

“Sure, Jay,” I said. “I’ll be a parent to your kid. And I’ll do him one better than just rattling off facts and figures; I’ll take him to meet with a WWII vet.”

An old man and a young boy walk on a leaf-strewn path.

Young people and old people can learn a lot from each other.

“That’d be great, man! Thank you! We’ll give you money for lunch and gas and whatever else.”

“You sure will.”

On a Saturday morning recently, Derrick and I drove to The Danish Home of Chicago to meet with Farfar, a long-time resident of the home and friend of my friend, Ingrid (who also writes for this blog). I asked Ingrid if Farfar would be interested in chatting with Derrick, and she confirmed that he would love to. Farfar and Derrick met for about two hours. They discussed the generalities of the war, Farfar’s time in the military and what it was like fighting overseas so far from home. Farfar even showed Derrick photographs from his time in the service. It was a well spent afternoon for both of them.

I figured that Derrick would have more questions about the war as I drove him back home to the city, but he was more interested in the place we just visited.

“I was kinda nervous going there,” Derrick told me. “I thought it’d be like a sad place with all these old people. But it wasn’t like that at all. It was more like the way my dad describes college.”

An old woman reaches for a heart-shaped pink balloon.

The Danish Home goes a long way toward dispelling the misconception that senior living isn’t fun or fulfilling.

“Your dad is leaving out a lot of details, Derrick, but I see what you’re saying. No, The Danish Home is not ‘a sad place with all these old people’. It’s exactly the opposite.”

I don’t think Derrick’s assumption is uncommon even for adults with elderly parents. There is a stigma associated with senior community living. The Danish Home, by design, avoids all the touch points of that stigma. Happiness, trust and hygge are the Home’s core values. The care the Home provides offers its residents the opportunity to live an enriched and fulfilling life, serving residents’ individual needs. As those needs change, so, too, does the care they receive.

I told Derrick that Farfar and the other residents have been able to live well at The Danish Home for so long because of its consistent and attentive care. Farfar feels comfortable that everyone there has his best interests in mind; they know him and his needs, and he trusts that the staff will take care of him just like they always have.

“Wait,” Derrick said. “What’s… hygge?”

“It’s a Danish word meaning cozy, comfortable. Like in the winter when you get under a real comfy blanket to watch a movie on the couch, maybe drink some tea—”

Derrick stopped me. “I don’t drink tea. Tea is gross.”

“Alright, kid, you know what I mean.”

The Danish Home applies this approach to its pricing structure as well. Costs can be negotiated based on individual circumstances and specific needs. As such, residents don’t have to pay for services they don’t actually require. As a not-for-profit community, The Danish Home is not about the bottom line; it’s about the residents. A component of the Danish Home’s capital campaign, “Our Future in Focus” happening now, is centered around this kind of charitable care.

The Danish Home is also different in that it has a 128-year history of providing quality care that is adaptive with prices to match.

“That’s pretty cool,” Derrick managed to say without sounding like an insincere 11-year-old.

“I think so. And, you know what else? My great-great grandmother was one of the 12 women who founded it.”

“So, when are you moving in there?”

To a sixth grader, all adults over 35 might as well be WWII vets. “I have a while to go before I need to think about moving in just yet. We’ll have to see what things look like when my wife and I get older. We have other things to think about and plan for first. But, I know that whatever our needs are when the time comes to discuss it, The Danish Home will be receptive and more than capable of meeting those needs and providing us with a great place to spend our golden years.”

“Okay,” he said. “Can we get McDonald’s for lunch?”

“If that’s what you want. Like The Danish Home, I’m here to please. Although, McDonald’s can’t hold a candle to the food at the The Danish Home, created by Chef Roger and his culinary team. Let me tell you about it…”