Thursday, May 19, 2016

Steve: There's no place like home

Community Rose Garden 2016

Nearly every older person wants to remain at home, surrounded by the comforts and reminders that have been accumulated over the years. Sweden has long explored how to make that possible.

On Wednesday, we met a 99 year old woman who lived in a beautiful one bedroom apartment filled with furniture and classic Swedish crystal. It was a homey and welcoming place, filled with light from the large windows.  And it was connected to a nursing home.

The apartment is part of a new-old trend in Sweden, apartments for older people where services are available if and when they are needed. These types of apartments used to be called service houses, but now are being called security apartments.

The woman we met described her situation this way in excellent English.  "I'm like Queen Silvia (of Sweden).  I have people around me to help."  Using her "rollater" as walkers are called here, she can get meals in the restaurant-style dining room or take them in her apartment. And it is her apartment. She leases it and it is filled with the furniture and decorations that give meaning to her life.

How much does this cost?  About $1200/month for the lease, meals and services. And as she pointed out, if she could no longer pay, the municipality would pay the cost. That's the Swedish social safety net.

This woman's apartment was in an older building in this complex. We visited two apartments in a new building that was specifically designed for "security apartments."  We met two residents, who had recently moved in.  The first was a man living in a nice sized one-bedroom ground floor apartment. He asked with a twinkle in his eye which of the girls in the class would dance with him. The apartment was filled with family photos. Although his English was limited, he was able to tell students who was in the photos:  his children, grandchildren and his wife who had recently passed away. This is so much more than the typical equivalent, assisted living, in the US.

The last apartment was on the third floor, with lovely furniture and a magnificent view toward Lake Vättern. It had the feel of a luxurious apartment that you might find in New York. For $1200 a month, including meals and services, and less if you needed less. The woman, who had been in the apartment for one week, pointed out the window to the house she had lived in for many years in the adjacent neighborhood and she talked about walking in the large public rose garden, which is next door to the complex. The apartment gives continuity to her life.  She wasn't wrenched from her home and placed in a tiny room with impersonal furnishings and a roommate not of her choosing.  Instead, she lives in a lovely apartment with one of the best views in town. And she'll get help when she needs it. Just like Queen Silvia.

Thursday's Journey

On Thursday, we take a trip that has become a tradition of this class. We go to Visingsö island, a large island in the middle of Lake Vättern. We bike to the old age home on the island and then students climb to the top of the tower of a 1,000 year old church. They have to make the climb to pass the course. We end the day with a salmon and potatoes casserole at a restaurant on the island.

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