During his time in St. Louis, Reverend Johann Friedrich Buenger founded a hospital and an orphanage. Known as a doer, Rev. Buenger was constantly working to solve the needs of the community. This social mindedness and go-getter attitude aren’t lost on his legacy that is now Lutheran Senior Services (LSS), a not-for-profit organization meeting the needs of older adults through senior living communities, affordable housing, and home and community based services.
Rev. Buenger immigrated from Germany to the United States in 1838. He came with a group of like-minded Lutherans, seeking religious freedom along with economic opportunities.
In 1858, Rev. Buenger established the Lutheran Hospital in St. Louis – the first Protestant hospital west of the Mississippi River. Always thinking of those in need, Rev. Buenger then turned his attention toward the orphaned children of the area and opened a children’s home in Des Peres, Missouri, on the outskirts of St. Louis.
Led by its founder’s focus on serving more of the surrounding community, the Lutheran Hospital continued to grow. In 1898 the Lutheran School of Nursing opened as a hospital program. Then in 1967, the Lutheran Hospital added the Lutheran Convalescent Home to its ministry. The Lutheran Convalescent Home was founded by the Lutheran Ladies Mission Aid Society in 1920. This southside St. Louis ministry was home to seniors who needed healthcare and assistance with activities of daily living. A few years later in 1970, St. Joseph’s Convent of Mercy in St. Louis was added to the fold and dedicated as Laclede Groves.
In 1984, big changes took place continuing to lay the foundation for the organizations we know today. The Lutheran Hospital was sold, and the proceeds formed a charity – Lutheran Charities Association. For a decade, this organization consisted of two branches: A charitable, grant-making trust – the Lutheran Charities Association – and Lutheran Healthcare, which operated senior living communities.
Lutheran Healthcare merged with the Lutheran Altenheim on January 1, 1996. The Lutheran Altenheim was founded in 1906 by a group of Lutheran pastors and laymen as a haven for senior men and women. This northside St. Louis ministry cared for older adults’ physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Over time the Lutheran Altenheim developed into a full continuum of living options for seniors. This included independent cottages and apartments, income-based housing, assisted living, skilled care, and extensive social services throughout the community. By joining Lutheran Healthcare, the Lutheran Altenheim strengthened Lutheran Healthcare’s dedication to serving older adults.
Also in 1996, Lutheran Healthcare became an independent organization from the Lutheran Charities Foundation, now called Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis. Lutheran Healthcare changed its name to Lutheran Senior Services (LSS) and introduced the LSS Christian Mission Older Adults Living Life to the Fullest (based on John 10:10).
Continuing the legacy of doing and serving those in need and honoring the work Rev. Buenger started in 1858, LSS expanded from 1996 to 2005. During this time LSS worked to serve even more seniors by developing four additional life plan communities, offering a full continuum of senior living, in the St. Louis metro area, two in Central Missouri, and two in Central Illinois. Seeing a need to reach seniors in their own homes, LSS created Home and Community Based Services in 1997. This service line includes home health, private duty care services, and expert hospice support in St. Louis. LSS also started managing or constructing seven HUD Section 202 affordable housing communities in metro St. Louis during this nine-year time frame.
In 2010, LSS saw a need for short stay rehabilitation and started doing again. The organization unveiled its REACH program for short stay rehabilitation guests that same year. In 2016, Mason Pointe became the newest addition to the LSS organization. This community expanded to a full life plan community with the addition of independent living in 2020.
For more than 160 years, LSS and its forefathers have been working to serve those populations who need it the most. Guided by a legacy of excellent service, LSS continually innovates to meet the needs of older adults. LSS recognizes the past generations who set this organization on its current path and honors these generous hearts through dedication to Older Adults Living Life to the Fullest.