Skip to Main Content (717) 697-3223

Winter Warmth and Community

Whether you are bemoaning another six weeks of winter as predicted last Friday by Pennsylvania’s Punxsatawney Phil and Canada’s albino groundhog Wiarton Willie or celebrating the prognostications an early spring by Staten Island Chuck and Louisiana’s Pierre C. Shadeaux, outside the temperatures remain brisk and a “wintry mix” is falling from the sky as I write. For me, the fact that there is a hint of daylight when I arrive home in the evenings signals the approach of the tail end of winter more than the presence or absence of a furry creature’s shadow.

Scandinavians have learned to embrace their long, dark winters through concepts which are difficult to translate into a single English word. Think of a lifestyle which embodies coziness, warmth, comfort, togetherness, and well-being.  The Danish word “hygge” (pronounced hue-ga) is described by Meik Wiking, the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, as “an atmosphere and an experience. It is about being with the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe.” The Danes use this word as an adjective, noun, and a verb. He compares the importance of “hygge” in Danish culture to freedom in American culture.  Similarly, Norwegians have the word “kos” or “koselig” (pronounced “koos-uh-lee,”). Lorelou Desjardins, who is originally from France but now lives in Norway, describes koselig as an “inner summer” or “a single word to express all at once love, friendship, comfort, trust, and most of all happiness.”

I was introduced to the word hygge and its meaning by Chris Gatesman of Green Ridge Village in Newville (Phone: 717-776-8237).  Green Ridge Village is a continuing care retirement community (CCRC), a place where older adults can live independently or receive partial to complete assistance with the tasks of daily living. Chris used the concept of hygge to introduce the essence of Green Ridge Village as more than just a location where an older adult can live and receive care if needed.  He sought to convey that life at this retirement community encompasses fellowship, security, and all the concepts mentioned in the previous paragraph which define “hygge” and “koselig”.

These qualities provide value to life and are often provided to some extent by family. However, personal connections and enriching experiences are also widely available outside of family life.  For older adults who remain self-sufficient, or for those who desire or require additional services, continuing care retirement communities provide the benefit of a setting in which physical assistance is readily available, while also maintaining a calendar of events which is designed to address the variety of interests held by the community’s residents. For those who remain in private homes, the qualities associated with “hygge” and “koselig” can be harder to develop and maintain as some people experience physical limitations related to the changes of growing older.  Seeking out and participating in events and opportunities in the wider community becomes more challenging and isolation is more likely to occur. Isolation has been widely shown to lead to poorer health outcomes for adults.

Continuing care retirement communities do not meet everyone’s tastes and preferences, and sometimes the financial commitment of moving to one of these communities is out of reach. But they are worthy of consideration by older adults for the reasons mentioned in this and some of our previous articles.  The Cumberland County area provides many choices in addition to Green Ridge Village, with each community having its own unique feel while providing services related to independent living, personal care, and/or skilled nursing care.

Is a CCRC right for you? Feel free to call me (717-697-3223), or any of the communities in your local area for more information.  Taking the time now to learn about the options which are available to you will help you make an informed decision about your future.  Your options may be severely limited if you wait until a health crisis occurs, and the decision placed in someone else’s hands.  Take control of your “hygge”!

Karen Kaslow, RN, BSN