On July 8th we celebrated the first Family of Friends Reunion at Hope & A Future (H&F). About 70 people representing three generations (four by spirit) gathered to dedicate the memorial garden developed by family and volunteers and displayed the finished Family of Friends Tree mural painted by Ruthie (activity director at H&F).
In this post, Ruthie, a staff member, and Karin, our founder, share what this experience meant to them.
All of the residents kept checking up on me as I was painting the tree mural. The evening that I started painting, Rick and Katie, my band mates in the Krause Family Band, came down the hall with guitar and music in hand and we had an impromptu practice as I worked, singing Beatles songs to honor the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Brad, an oldies expert, stood close by and sang along to the songs. At one point, Joanna popped her head out of her bedroom door and said, "What happened out here anyway?" We had a good laugh, and I explained that I was painting a mural—an apple tree that we would call our "Family of Friends Tree". I told Joanna that the purpose of the apples would be to represent the people in our lives who had made their exit. Joanna smiled, nodded and said, "How nice! Good for you!"
As I progressed in my work, Rosemarie took an interest and kept checking up with me. After the branches and leaves had been painted she kept coming up to me and saying, "I'm anxious to see those apples on that tree!"
Rosemarie helped me pick out the frames for each person from among several that Michelle, a former resident's daughter, had donated specifically for the tree. After thoughtfully looking at the pictures, Rosemarie surprised me by saying, "Boy, they all had such beautiful white hair."
And they did! Katie looked at the photos in the tiny frames and said, "They look so sweet—like three little dolls."
Rosemarie asked questions about Nadine, who had lived in Rosemarie's room before she moved in. Brad, who lives in what used to be Margaret's room, has asked several questions about Margaret, keeps a copy of her obituary in his room, and has had dreams that he and Margaret are flying through the air with the dogs they both knew by their sides. Rosemarie and Brad feel connected to these women because, even though they didn’t live with them, they know that they are part of the Hope & A Future family.
After the tree had been painted, I was in Bettye's room for our regular "Manicure Monday" date. As I filed and polished Bettye's nails she said, "The tree you painted in the hallway is so beautiful. What a wonderful way to remember the people who have passed away. I enjoyed watching you progress as you painted it. It's such a joy to watch you live."
The whole experience was so sweet and healing for me. Every time I walk by the mural, I look at the smiling faces in the golden frames hanging on the apples and have such peace in my heart.
Last Fall, at the Celebration of Life party for Margaret Hall, family members of residents who had lived and died at Hope & A Future approached me to ask if they could host a Family of Friends Reunion the following summer. They also wanted to develop a memorial garden on our grounds and a Family of Friends Tree on a wall in the hall of our accessible wing.
Margaret had decided in the last months of her life that she no longer wanted her ashes to be taken back to England—but to be spread in a flower garden at Hope & A Future. Her family desired to continue hosting their family reunions at what had become not only Margaret’s last home, but a family home to them as well. For me, this was overwhelming proof of the development of real community at Hope & A Future. Most long-term care centers welcome you to join their community. But how many of them have residents that want their ashes spread on their grounds? How many family members wish to continue holding family reunions on their grounds?
The ceremony started with Amazing Grace played on bagpipes under a sunny sky with puffy clouds and a friendly breeze. We sang, shared stories, laughed, cried, hugged, prayed, ate, swam, relaxed and loved each other. And that, folks, is celebrating life together in community—in its richest sense! Thanks be to God for His abundant blessings!
So many people have contributed to shaping where we stand today—both in helping to accomplish what we have already achieved and in laying a foundation of experience for the future. This includes current and former residents and their families as well as staff who have worked alongside Karin Krause over the years.
In order to learn from our community members, we have been conducting interviews with residents, their families and caregivers, and family members of former residents. These conversations have uncovered several common themes, confirming our perspective on what Hope & A Future is providing to its residents and community members. Here are three insights:
1) Families of residents have had increased confidence in the care being provided. They found it encouraging to see their loved ones engaged in an intergenerational community. They have been enabled to blossom, reconnecting with their own skills, history and interests, even developing new interests and abilities.
2) Residents experienced increased healthcare-related quality of life. Intentional, intergenerational community utilizes social connection as a way to improve quality of life, health, and sustainability. Higher levels of social support and connection are associated with better health throughout the lifespan. For optimal well-being, people need to help as much as they need to be helped.
3) The Therapeutic Interactive Intergenerational Neighborhood (TIIN) at Hope & A Future is distinct from other programs. It adds unique value to residents and the broader community. Bringing people together from different ages and backgrounds creates a unique mix of talents and resources also known as social capital, where everyone has something to offer. The TIIN helps to promote intergenerational social connections through its built environment and programming. Shared grounds, gardens, and spaces, combined with community meals and neighborhood activities, create a wealth of opportunity for strong bonds to form.
In support of the second and third points above, we have been conducting a review of technical literature, and plan to share more about our findings in the future. In support of the first point, we present the following anecdotes.
Nadine’s daughter Jan told us that, prior to her mother’s move to Hope & A Future, they attended a concert and potluck event here. One of Nadine’s first comments was, “I could live in a place like this.” Jan was looking for a higher and more personalized level of care than her mother had been receiving. After Nadine moved in, Jan was encouraged by her mother’s reports to her that she “got the most wonderful care here.”
Despite significant dementia, during her two years with us, Nadine became more oriented to her room and routine activities and was comforted by interactions with familiar and consistent staff, and by the presence of Charlie, the dog. Jan found that she could easily communicate about any questions or concerns, and that she wasn’t worried about her mother’s care anymore. She also was glad to see her mother living in an active community surrounded by other people who encouraged her involvement in accessible social opportunities.
Margaret’s daughters, Sandra and Kathy, told us that their mother’s health had deteriorated substantially in a nursing home, and that they had been seeking a more individualized care environment for her. After Margaret moved in, they were encouraged to see significant improvements in her health and mobility. They reported that their mother really blossomed at Hope & A Future, becoming a vital member of the community over a six-year period. In addition to her improved health, she developed meaningful relationships with other residents, staff, and volunteers, even finding cultural connection with a local neighbor and volunteer who, like her, happened to be from England.
Sandra and Kathy shared that they love coming back to Hope & A Future, even since their mother has passed away: “I can’t say enough about Rick and Karin and the staff. Just an amazing place. It’s not a facility, it’s a home.”
Betty and Brad
Betty and Brad moved in as new residents in late 2016; a few months later, we spoke with Becky, Betty’s daughter and Brad’s sister. Betty had been primary caregiver for her son Brad, who has Down’s Syndrome, until her own mobility limitations from arthritis meant that this was no longer possible. For a time, Becky and her family, who live out of state, cared for her brother. But having always previously lived with his mother, it was hard for Brad to be separated from her and in a new environment.
Becky says that since the move, her Mom is more at peace and less fearful. Being reunited with her son in a supportive environment has given her a renewed sense of purpose. Betty told her daughter that she has never been cared for so lovingly and that since making some difficult transitions in medications, she feels better and is better able to focus.
Brad has also enjoyed his new community, living once again in the same residence as his mother, and participating in a regular schedule of activities. He quickly formed meaningful bonds with regular volunteers and staff. Becky also noted that Hope & A Future staff have a penchant for being able to see people’s gifts and to know how to get them to use those gifts in a way that improves their quality of life and contributes to the mutual support and encouragement that can happen in a close-knit community.
Karen, a CNA, is a long-term staff member who has been working with the Krauses for over 15 years, and currently also lives at Hope & A Future. Karen feels very close to the residents, stating that “they have become my family” and “we’re grafted together”. In an interview, she spoke at length about how she has seen many seniors improve physically and mentally after moving to Hope & A Future. She also noted that as they adapt to their new surroundings, residents become vibrant and interactive members of the community, a process she describes as “blossoming”. She attributes this to the idea that they “feel that they are truly cared for and they can be themselves.” Karen discussed how activities at Hope & A Future are tailored to the interests of the residents, in order to help them engage more meaningfully in the community.
The Memory Garden
The impact of this community model has extended to residents and their families. As a result of their experiences and memories, several relatives of former residents are still involved with Hope & A Future today, and some of these family members have been helping to plan and design a memory garden in honor of their loved ones. The landscaping and planting work is currently under way; a dedication ceremony is planned for July 8th, and all are welcome!
Many of you know about Hope and a Future’s vision: to develop a Therapeutic Interactive Intergenerational Neighborhood (TIIN) that is sustainable and replicable. You may also know about our mission: to promote meaningful relationships between young and old, empowering individuals to serve and strengthen one another in a diverse, faith-based, green community. In this blog post, we will give you a better feel for the land itself.
Honoring the Past
When people first see our “country estate” they often wonder what we’re up to. The uniqueness of the property also evokes curiosity about its history. It is thought that the farmhouse was built in the 1880s. Mark Udvari-Solner, who did the architectural work for our accessible living addition, once told us that when he and his Father designed their own beautiful addition to the farm house more than thirty years ago, he had wondered why anyone would want to live this far out in the country! Another friend remembers riding horses out here.
Before construction of the surrounding residential subdivisions, the area boasted extensive territorial views. On a clear day from nearby hilltops, it was possible to see all the way to Lake Mendota. Today, our property’s mid-slope location, together with its trees and wildflowers, evokes the immediate area’s rural roots. The aerial photo of the property left in our possession by the previous owners, Jim and Liz, allows us to visualize this history, and to contemplate the many changes this house has seen during its existence, which spans portions of three different centuries.
With providential timing, in 2012, Rick and Karin Krause were led to move to this 5.7-acre site—a place where their vision for an intergenerational community could grow into reality. The property is located in the unincorporated Town of Middleton and surrounded by the corporate limits of the City of Madison. At the time of purchase, the site was improved with the late 19th-century-built farmhouse, which had been upgraded and added to over time. Also on-site was the old barn, still standing as of this writing. An outdoor pool with a patio and sauna had been built between the house and the barn. Much of the rest of the site was wooded, with the open areas containing natural growth. Time had taken a toll on decking and fences, trees were in need of trimming, and invasive trees and weeds needed to be removed.
Subsequent to our purchase of the property, we built a new addition to the house, which now contains accessible living space for our frail senior residents and our live-in staff. Through the sacrificial work of hundreds of volunteers and generous donations of money, resources and equipment, we have landscaped approximately one-third of the site.
Living in the Present
Today, the site work continues with further trimming and landscaping. A very productive vegetable garden has fed residents and the surrounding community through Middleton Outreach Ministry’s food pantry. Together with friends from our Garden and Grounds committee, families of former residents are currently planning a Memory Garden to honor loved ones who have lived and died as members of our community. There will be a bench for prayer or reflection, an arbor and a memory wall, where each former resident will have a personalized memory plate. We also hope to have fruit trees, a gazebo for outdoor concerts and gatherings, a walking path linking residents and neighbors, and an accessible playground for the very young to the very mature.
All of this is happening because of the family of friends that has formed here as we provide care and work with community volunteers and professionals to create the first TIIN. These friendships and working relationships represent a partial fulfillment of our spiritual vision, which is rooted in our desire to impart God’s message of hope and a future to the lives of people from different generations and backgrounds, building community by helping people to improve each other’s lives through interpersonal connection and service. Our work now also involves writing the next chapter of this property that has already seen so much history; as we plan our next steps, we seek to honor residents, neighbors and the character of this beautiful former farmstead.
As the surrounding area was developed, city planners had assumed that this property’s existing structures would eventually be razed and that roads and buildings would fill this space to the maximum degree possible. However, the City of Madison is working with us to approve the development of a unique neighborhood setting that will maintain the basic character of the property while improving access with a bike and pedestrian path through the southern portion of the site.
Planning for the Future
Integral to our plans is the construction of a 12-unit residential building, to include eight owner-occupied condominium units for people aged 55 and over, together with four rental apartment units for young families desiring community-based mentoring and support. There will also be a community space and workshop/greenhouse area. The new construction will be situated near the existing structures, meaning that much of the property will retain its low-density charm for the enjoyment of both us and our neighbors.
We are very excited about the design concept provided by our architect, Jim Gluek. The current plans will allow for the condos, the apartments and the new common areas to be under one roof. This will allow young and old, frail and strong to share life together and help each other in a weather-proof, accessible environment. In all of this, we seek to honor the past by living in the present and planning for the future.
The decline of rural life in this country has created a shift in the ability of families to care for each other. Families with young children have had to move to larger urban areas in pursuit of work, and elder family members have been left in rural areas or small towns. Both groups have been growing up or growing older in a place that no longer allowed for the free and mutual exchange of knowledge, physical support and community. Young families that have moved for work have often found themselves in unfriendly cities in which they were economically and physically challenged by the environment and lack of kin.
Mary Pipher’s book The Shelter of Each Other tells the story of the decline of the family in contemporary society. This book was published in 1996, and family life in the last two decades shows an increase in the isolation of young families and elders. Young families that do not have extended family nearby struggle due to lack of emotional and economic support for themselves and their growing children. Both groups are subject to the rollercoaster of the economy and healthcare concerns. Intergenerational living addresses these family issues by recreating an environment where something approaching kinship becomes the central principle for the preservation of family.
For many older people in the United States today, the fear of being dependent on others and being forced into a nursing home is greater than their fear of dying. In order to age in place, an elder requires a network of health care professionals, family, friends, community or a combination of those resources. One answer to this complex set of logistical problems can be found through intergenerational living environments.
Options for Intergenerational Living
Bringing two frail seniors into our home was my first baby step into that vision and I had been doing it for a while when Margaret came to live with us. At this point, we were called Intergenerational House LLC.
When Margaret moved in with us, she was in a wheelchair, and with a walker and moderate to maximal assistance, she could walk 10 feet. She was on a very long list of medications and needed insulin four times a day. She was confused, and her confusion often caused incontinence. And she fell frequently.
Sometimes she fell because she was trying to do things she could no longer remember she needed help to do. Other times, it was because of mysterious muscle spasms she had in her legs that caused her knees to involuntarily bend, springing her backwards. This was very strange and frightening for both her and us.
Our garden, which was designed and planted by our wonderful volunteers, is bountiful and overflowing with goodness. As a result, the dinner table here has seen a steady presence of fresh produce from the garden…and we have donated over 300 lbs of fresh vegetables to Middleton Outreach Ministry.
Written by members of the Hope & a Future community including residents, volunteers, and staff.