The phrase about history repeating itself usually has a negative connotation. However, there are aspects of long-term care that would be good to repeat. In the middle ages, a philanthropic community was developed in Augsburg, Germany, by the Fugger family; it was called the Fuggerei. The community was set up predominantly for widows and older pensioners—a retirement community of sorts—and was supported by a wealthy and powerful financier in the 16th century (Jakob Fugger “The Rich”) who minted coins for the Vatican and was key in steering Europe’s spice trade.

But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Fuggerei is that it still operates today as an affordable community supported by the Fugger family foundation trust. It contains a chapel, herb garden, communal green areas, café, private residences, and walking streets. Residents have a sense of pride; it is viewed as a privilege to live in the Fuggerei.

There is even a history of care management services located within the walls of the community that were once on the outskirts away from the center of town. Today, tourists visit the community, and the fee for entry is utilized for improvements. The community once used long metal bars with distinctive shapes at each end to identify their units in the dark (prior to electricity being implemented). Plumbing was added, negating the need for the chamber pot. It has a bomb shelter and survived WWII, save a roofs being replaced. And other than attempting to accommodate automobiles, it remains intact as a vibrant social, historic community.

The only two statutes still on the books are for residents to pray for the Fugger family three times per day, and to use the back gate and pay a fine if you come in past 10:00 p.m. So the story goes, but it’s unclear whether these two chartered items are enforced. The cost of living in the Roman Catholic community has not changed in over 500 years—in current U.S. dollars, annual rent is $1.23.

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AuthorJane Rohde