Aging parents. As we live so much longer, a whole new industry has opened up to address the needs of our aging parents. I’m very fortunate. My parents are like spry 50 year olds (well, maybe 60 but…you know what I mean). They travel, have a social life, and take care of their two properties better than I take care of mine–a source of discussion at the supper table when we get together…ha ha.
But others are not so fortunate. Some parents need care
in their golden years. I remember my grandmother moved to a small house in a Mennonite community in Souderton, Pennsylvania where she lived independently for many years. During her last year or so of life, she had to move into the “big” house and, while she had her own private room, it was a dormitory style of living with medical care on hand in case she needed help.
I’ve frequently heard people discuss the Amish and about how they always take care of their aging parents and never put them in homes. However, I “always” have a problem when people use words like “always” and “never“. Quite frankly, it’s simply not true.
That’s right. There are old age homes for Amish people. Shocking, isn’t it? When my older friend Katie lost her sister, within months, her sister’s husband was whisked into an old age home. There was zero discussion among the grown children taking him into their own homes. He needed “too much care” for them to be bothered.
I have to confess that I was really upset by these three children. They were the anti-Amish stereotype. I’d write a book about how they treated their father and stepmother (Katie’s sister) but I doubt my readers would believe me! Even worse, they’d send me hate mail, for sure and certain, if I wrote about the Amish in a poor light.
It’s not all Amish, believe me. But there are, indeed, some Amish adults who won’t take care of their parents.
The point of that story, however, is that I learned that there is such a thing as an old age home for Amish. And, to be fair, many of the Amish elderly at this home are not just put there by grumpy, unkind children. You see, as more and more Amish move away from farming, they are living in regular “English” homes that are converted for their needs: no electricity, propane lamps, hitching posts, etc. There simply isn’t room to make a dawdihaus or, as my friend Katie calls them, dawdiend. An Amish family living in a four bedroom, two bathroom ranch with six children doesn’t have space for two aging parents.
In the old days, when most Amish were farmers or working for themselves, they had the land to build the dawdihaus, a separate (but small) house or a designated and converted section of their existing house, for their parents. Sometimes parents would spend two or three months at one child’s house and then move to another’s.
I have always been really worried about Katie. She’s almost 80 and living in the dawdiend, a much smaller apartment converted from part of the house. But she has no children and only one living sibling (older). Her nieces and nephews all have large families and their own parents to worry about. What, on earth, was going to happen to Katie?
She called me last week. Out of the blue. It was a wonderful surprise. And she had wonderful news. One of her nephews is building her a small dawdiend attached to his house and she’s moving up there later this month. It’s two hours away from Lancaster County, away from her other extended family and her church friends. But she will not live out the remainder of her life in a home.
I really thanked God for this blessing. Katie is a wonderful woman and I’m so happy that someone stepped up and took on the responsibility of giving back to a woman who has truly given so much during her earthly life.
Sarah Price is the author of the Plain Fame series and the Amish of Ephrata series, among other books. She comes from a long line of devout Mennonites, and her writing reflects accurate and authentic stories based upon her own experiences with several Amish communities. Visit her at sarahpriceauthor.com and on Facebook.