FRANKFORT — Jerry Swanson witnessed a lot in his 71 years of living.
Swanson resides in the Maples senior care facility in Frankfort, and years ago left his family’s Bear Lake farm for an education and a stint with the Peace Corps. His travels took him around the globe, and over three decades-plus he taught English in faraway places like Somalia, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and pre-revolution Iran.
“(Iran) was a glorious country, but you had this tremendous gap between wealthy and poor people,” Swanson said, adding “people will only put up with that kind of thing for so long.”
Kindness and love of family brought Swanson back home in his late 50s. He returned to care for his aging mother, Faith, on the family farm, then moved her to the Maples.
Swanson subsequently was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. He had to decide where to live.
“I chose the Maples,” Swanson said from his wheelchair. “I knew what a great, wonderful, special job they’d done for my mother, so it made for an ideal situation for me.”
Swanson likes the care at the Maples, but he’s also excited about the big changes on the horizon for the 60-plus residents. The Benzie County-financed facility is nearing completion of a $12.2 million transformation. The new Maples will offer private rooms and bathrooms for all residents, two long-term care households, one memory loss unit and one short-term rehab unit.
“It will allow more people to stay here within the county to have their needs taken care of, plus we’ll be able to add a few more jobs,” said Maples Administrator Kathleen Dube.
The shift at the Maples is a sign of what’s to come in the Grand Traverse region when it comes to senior care. I reported in January that the number of individuals 65 or older in Grand Traverse County will more than double, jumping by 101 percent, by 2040. The region overall will see its senior population rise by 63 percent.