The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Luxury aging in Idaho

On land purchased for a buck, this church builds for the future

Marge Hanson, 86, shoveled snow for the last time last December. Then she moved into Luther Park, a housing complex attached to First Lutheran Church, Sandpoint, Idaho, where she's been a member for 65 years.

 Residents around a table at Sandpoint
Residents gather around the breakfast table at Luther Park, a housing complex attached to First Lutheran Church, Sandpoint, Idaho.

"I like knowing I'll never have to eat alone again," she said. When her husband died in 2004 she continued to live in her home, but "it was lonely, and never the same. I loved my home ... but I love it here," she said.

Senior adult living had been a dream at First for more than 20 years. The seed was planted even earlier in 1959 when the congregation bought 6 acres for $1 (a parishioner paid the remaining $11,000). Hanson, who was church custodian with her husband, said the congregation for years debated what to do with the land. "Some wanted to sell it when the market was good," she said. "I'm so glad that was voted down."

Now the land is valued at $2.6 million and Luther Park is a $14.9 million facility attached to the church. Residents began moving in the day after it was dedicated, Dec. 14. Of Luther Park's 87 apartments 60 are for retirement living, the rest are enhanced care units.

"It seems like we've been talking about this for a long time and here it is, and it's so beautiful," said resident and member Elaine Clark, 83.

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