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IN DANISH AND RUSSIAN OLD-AGE HOMES.
Were I a worn-out worker, depend- subject, however, he would find-and ent for my daily bread on the charity the fact, let us hope, would set him of my fellows, I should certainly wish a-thinking—that although the cost of to change my nationality, and to be- living is as high in Copenhagen as in come, without a moment's delay, either London, the average cost per head in a Dane, an Austrian, or a Russian. Danish old-age homes is considerably For of all the nations in Europe these lower than in English workhouses. But three best understand how to deal with then Denmark obtains good value for the old and destitute, how to secure every penny she spends on her poor, peace and comfort in their latter days whereas England—there are English for the folk who have fallen behind workhouses where the officials cost in the race. In England a visit to any more than the paupers. of the abodes where the aged poor are Although I was never yet in an oldhoused is, as a rule, more depressing age home, whether Danish, Austrian, than a visit to a prison: at every turn or Russian, where life was not well one sees a troubled, discontented face, worth living, among old-age homes as or hears a voice that tells of hopeless among all things else there are better misery. In Denmark, Austria, and and worse; and the very best are cerRussia, on the contrary, the homes tainly the Danish. No other country, reserved for the old people are the indeed, deals at once so kindly and so brightest and cheeriest of resorts; after wisely with her aged poor as Denmark; an hour spent there, it is the outside there is no clubbing together of the world that seems gloomy and care. old people there, no herding of the
The heartiest burst of laughter worthy with the worthless. On the I ever heard in St. Petersburg, I heard contrary, infinite trouble is taken to in an old-age home; while in Vienna sist them and sort them, so that the working men and women betake them- precise treatment he or she-merits selves instinctively for consolation, may be secured for each one of them. when things go wrong with them, to In Denmark no respectable old man or the Versorgungshaus garden. As for woman need ever become a pauper; no Copenhagen
respectable old man or woman ever Some little time ago a distinguished crosses the threshold of a workhouse. Englishman excited great amusement Should a man-or a woman who has in Copenhagen by solemnly announc- completed his sixtieth year, find himing, after a visit to an old-age home, self without the wherewithal on which that England could not possibly afford to live, he applies to the local authorito provide for her worn-out workers ties not for pauper relief, but for oldas Denmark provides for hers. He
age relief; and this, by the law of 1891, had noted the many little comforts they are bound to grant him, providwith which the inmates are surround- ing he can prove not only that his desed; had noted how well they fare in titution is owing to no fault of his all respects, how contentedly and hap- own, but that he has led a decent life, pily they live; and he had therefore has worked hard and been thrifty; and taken it for granted that such places that, during the ten previous years, be must be expensive luxuries. Were he has neither received a single penny to give a little more attention to the
as poor-relief, nor been guilty of va.
grancy, nor of begging. The old people starvation. They had been living for who fulfil these conditions are placed months as the veriest sparrows bein a class apart from ordinary paupers, cause they could not face, they said, in the privileged class: they are the the disgrace of going to the workhouse. veterans of industry, and the position In these Danish homes it is delightful they hold among their fellows is much to see how the inmates, especially the the same as that held by invalided old women, plume themselves on being soldiers. Although they are housed, there; there is something quite touchfed, and clothed at the expense of the ing in the dignified, self-important airs nation, they are neither regarded nor they give themselves on the strength treated in any way as paupers. In of being recognized members of the Denmark the word “pauper" is never aged poor class. Evidently they look applied to anyone above sixty, unless on mere paupers much as Prussian it be a case of Tekel. Infinite trouble Junkers look on the rest of humanity is taken, indeed, to keep the members -as persons between whom and themof the privileged class free from every- selves there lies a deep gulf. I hardly thing that smacks of pauperism; local ever passed an hour among them but authorities are forbidden by law to some old man or woman inquired anxhouse them under the same roof as iously whether I was quite sure I paupers, or to allow pauper officials to understood that paupers were never interfere with them. The old men re- admitted into old-age homes. What tain their votes, all their other rights they were given to eat, or wherewithal as citizens too; and this in itself raises they were clothed, seemed to be a an insuperable bar between them and matter of but little account in their paupers; for paupers in Denmark have eyes compared with being free from no civic rights worth mentioning—not association with the degraded. There even the right to get married. Mem- is nothing these old people love quite bers of the privileged class who have so much as their afternoon cups of relatives able and willing to take care coffee; none the less had they to choose of them, or who are strong enough to between going without their coffee or take care of themselves, are each pro- sitting side by side while they drank vided with a small annuity, and the it with those pariabs, the paupers, in rest are lodged in old-age homes. every old-age bome in Denmark there
The mere fact that the doors of the would speedily be one meal less a day Danish old-age homes are closed inex- -this is a point on which there can be orably against all excepting those who no doubt. have led decent honest lives, gives to “Yes, I am real glad and thankful the inmates of these places a certain to be here," an inmate of a country standing in the world, which is to old-age home once informed me. “[ them an unfailing source of gratifica- have a better bed to lie on than I ever tion-gratification, let it be noted, that had in my life before, and I am just costs not a single penny. Far from as comfortable as I can be. But," she any discredit being attached to living hesitated for a moment and then addin an old-age home, it is regarded as ed, with an odd little flush on her honan honor to be there, as a proof of est weather-beaten face, “I don't think established respectability and general I could ever have made up my mind worthiness. And all that this means to come bad that lot been here." She to the bonest poor, only the poor them- pointed as she spoke to the Fattiggaselves know. I once found a worthy ard, the place where the disreputable old couple within hailing distance of poor, ex-loafers and drunkards, are
housed in their old age. Her remark was greeted with a little murmur of sympathy by the other old women in the room, who all agreed that the home would be spoilt completely if they must share it with all sorts and conditions.
Not only are these institutions reserved exclusively for the respectable poor, but the respectable poor are taught to look on them as their own special property, as the place where they have a right to be their home in fact. This, too, is an unfailing source of gratification to the old people, and this, too, costs not a single penny. Whoever crosses the threshold of an old-age home, even though it be the Borgmester himself, goes there as the guest of the inmates, and must knock at the door of each room and wait for permission before he enters. Then, when he does enter, what a futter of delight there is; what a bowing and curtesying and handshaking; for they dearly love to play the host, and regard the entertaining of strangers not only as a duty, but as one of the great pleasures of life. Among these old Danes there is no trace of that dull hopelessness, that "just waiting" which is so marked a characteristic of the London poor in their old age; on the contrary, I always found them, when I paid them a visit, alert, eager for news, and on enjoyment bent. Feeble though they may be, many of them, the old men were evidently keenly interested in politics; they have votes, it must be remembered, and are extremely proud of the fact. Their faces glow with delight as they tell how the rival parties keep them well supplied with newspapers, and send carriages to take them to the votingbooth when the elction day comes round. They were staunch Democrats for the most part-at ministerial doings they were never weary of cavilling-none the less they were all fer
vently loyal, I noticed, devoted to their King, “the very best King in the whole world,” as one of them assured me, "although he does make mistakes sometimes." Nor was it only in politics they were interested; they seemed quite in touch with all that was going on both at home and abroad, especially in England, "the country where all the money comes from"; the country, too, as they never failed to tell me, "where our own Princess is going to be Queen one day.”
Nothing is more characteristic of the lines on which these homes are worked than the fashion in which the inmates and their official caretakers mutually demean themselves. I shall not easily forget the lofty dignity with which a poor bed-ridden old dame informed me, one day, that her servant of course came at once when she rang! And the officials attached to the homes are not only in theory, but in reality, the servants of the inmates. In one of our model London workhouses several hundred decrepit old men and women are forced to get up at six o'clock in the morning, the same time as the young and strong; and this simply for the sake of saving the officials the trouble of making two breakfasts! In Copenhagen short work would be made of any master or matron who ventured even to suggest such an arrangement. There the officials are never allowed to forget that it is their business in life to make their charges comfortable and happy; that they are in the home, in fact, for no other purpose than to cook for them, tend them, nurse them when they are ill, and give them a helping hand generally. They must watch over them of course and keep them out of harm's way; but they have express orders to interfere with them as little as possible. For Denmark holds, and very sensibly, that as these old people are all worthy old people there is no reason why they should be placed
under authority, worried, and thwarted. in a large, beautiful garden, and with "They go to bed when they like and get another garden lying just beyond. All up when they like-within certain lim
the rooms are bright and cheerfulits, of course—they go for walks, too, looking, well warmed in winter, and and pay visits to their friends just well supplied with fresh air in sumwhen the fancy seizes them. They mer; they are prettily furnished, too, lead their own lives, in fact, and go although as simply and inexpensively their own way; and, so long as they as possible. The inmates—there are behave themselves properly, and con- some four hundred of them are alform to the few simple rules in force lowed to take with them when they for the general good, no one ever go any of their own little belongings dreams of interfering with them. to which they are specially attached; Should they abuse the liberty they en- and these things give to the place a joy, however; should they wax quar- pleasant touch of homeliness which relsome and thus prove an annoyance
contributes not a little to the comfort to their fellow-inmates; should they of those who live there. The old men spend their pocket-money (for they are on one side of the building; the have pocket-money, fourpence a week) old women on the other; while the on beer and cause public scandal; or married couples have special quarters should they in any way conduct them- of their own. There are no dormitories selves in an unseemly fashion-things in any of the Danish homes; in the are changed. In such cases as these eyes of the Danish as of the English the master or matron must of course poor, dormitories are the very abomiintervene; and, if remonstrances prove nation of abominations. In this special una vailing, must appeal to the inspec- home all the inmates sleep in bedrooms tor who represents the local authori- -two of them in some rooms, three, ties. Then the offenders speedily find five, or six in others. These are their themselves bereft of their pocket- own private apartments, the smokingmoney and forced to take their walks room and sitting-rooms being of course within the garden walls-every home common property. has a garden. They may even, unless In all the Danish old-age homes the they at once change their ways, be food is excellent; but in the Copendriven forth from the home altogether, hagen home it is better even than else. and sent to live with the paupers. where, as the cooking of it is watched
The model old-age home for all Den- over by an expert, the former chef of mark is the new home in Copenhagen, a great restaurant, who takes immense which was built and organized under pride in the dainty dishes he serves up the direction of Herr Jacobi, who, as for the city's old pensioners. Were he chief of the Poor Department, has done to see the hunches of hard beef that more than any other man in Europe in English workhouses are placed beto make the world understand that all fore toothless old men and women, he schemes for bettering the condition of
would be horrified at our extravagance the respectable poor are foredoomed, as well as at our inhumanity. The unless based on classification. It is lucky old folk for whom he caters have sheer waste of time, he declares-and every day dinners that they can eat no one can speak with more authority in comfort, teeth or no teeth, dinners on the subject-trying to make decent made up of stews and broths and cunold folk comfortable, if you shut them ningly devised concoctions of such up with folk who are not decent. The things as sheeps' heads and tripe_all Dew home is a fine building, standing at once cheaper and more nutritious than beef. The dishes are always a low white building, nestling in the highly seasoned, just as the class for side of a hill, well sheltered from coldi whom they are provided like them; winds, and face to face with the sun. and they are served quite hot. In Eng- A passer-by would take it assuredly lish workhouses the food is at best for an old farmhouse, standing as it lukewarm. Then there are sweets as does in a beautiful old-fashioned garwell as savouries, not heavy suet pud- den, one of the sort in which hollydings, but real sweets, soft and light, hocks and lavender always grow. Unmade with milk and covered with jam der the trees there is a summer-house sometimes. And these dinners cost where the old people have their coffee less than the midday meal in work- when the weather is fine; for there are houses; for there is no limit to the only some sixteen of them and they miracles that may be wrought by good live together as one family, although. cooking and skilful management. The they each have a little private room. inmates of the homes have their own to which they an retire when they little stores of provisions and find great wish for solitude. This home is the pleasure therein. Twice every week joint property of three villages, which a supply of bread, white, gray, and also own jointly a workhouse and a brown, is dealt out to them, as well as forced-la bor house. Now that they are a supply of butter and cheese; and ev- compelled to provide a home for the ery day they are each given half a bot- respectable poor apart from the orditle of beer. First thing in the morning, nary paupers, neighboring communal at seven o'clock, large
cups of hot
authorities often, enter into some such milk are brought round to them in partnership as this. There are comtheir own rooms. At eleven they make
munes, however, that prefer keeping coffee for themselves, unless they be the entire control of their institutions: too feeble, in which case it is made in their own hands; and in these cases: for them; at twelve they have dinner; the arrangement adopted is very simiat three they again make coffee for lar to that which would now be in themselves; and at five they have tea force in England had Mr. Hutton's. with cakes and whatever else the cook Cottage Home Bill become law. A may supply. And they are as well better-class working man and his wife clothed as they are fed, and as well are installed in a comfortably fursupplied with amusement. A military nished house, and what respectable band is told off to play for them in aged poor there are homeless in the their garden, and there is a special village are sent to live with them untheatre to which they are admitted der the close surveillance of the comfree. Little wonder they sleep well o' munal authorities. It is on the comnights and face the world cheerily munal authorities that the full responduring the day.
sibility for the management of the home Large towns must of course have rests in the country, just as it is on large old-age homes, and the home in the municipality that it rests in towns. Copenhagen is certainly perfect in its The cost of the homes is divided be. way. Still in Denmark it is not the tween the State and the commune, or large homes, but the small ones, those the municipality, as the case may be, in country districts, that are the most one half of it being defrayed out of attractive of all. There is one, for in- the yield of the beer tax and the other stance, at Fredensborg, only a good half out of the local rates. stone's throw away from the famous I have visited old-age bomes in all palace, that is quite charming. It is parts of Denmark, in large towns, in