Ever wondered what care is like for the elderly in different cultures? We are proud of our heritage as a care home provider in the South West of England. Nonetheless, what lessons could we learn from other corners of the globe?
It matters to us that we have wine and sherry to offer our residents at dinner and that we serve up the residents’ favourite fish and chips. It’s important to our residents that we have in-house hairdressing. Christmas at Eastleigh wouldn’t be Christmas without a round of carols and the Queen’s Speech broadcast on Christmas Day.
Today we went on a journey to find out what care for older people is like in other cultures.
Before we take a look at other cultures, it’s vital for us to understand the importance of recognising our cultural identity as part of the care we provide our older population. It is our culture which helps all of us to feel connected to our community. What’s more, it can be invaluable to provide security and an anchor for those with dementia and coming towards the end of their life.
This is particularly interesting in the UK. We, as a society, still often view old age as a taboo topic – we can be afraid to look later life square in the eye. At Eastleigh, we continually challenge this element of our culture to ensure that the care we provide is exemplary and values the individual and their family.
So, what’s it like elsewhere?
Vastly at odds with the Western ‘system’, it is actually illegal for children not to look after their ageing parents. Indeed, there is a specific Elderly Rights Law which ensures older relatives are visited often, not snubbed and not neglected! Caring for a parent is seen as the exchange they deserve for their investment in you as a child – yes there are strings attached! This brings the state wide benefit of not needing a state-funded support system.
Whilst we recognise the obvious pros of this, we also recognise that our culture and society is somewhat different. At Eastleigh, we encourage and support ties, communication and contact between residents and their loved ones. However, we also recognise that for many loved ones, the pressures of everyday life mean they need a trusted care home to provide for their relative precisely so that the relationship can be nurtured and beneficial on both sides.
33% of the Japanese population is over the age of 65. With the second highest life expectancy globally, the country has had to carefully consider elder care. Similarly to China, the Japanese culture expects respect for the elderly, particularly elderly relatives. Elderly relatives are very much still valued within their communities and families. Indeed, the elderly are actively celebrated in Japanese culture complete with a ‘Respect the Aged’ national holiday! Many generations of one family will also live together.
Norway is often held up as a beacon, particularly within Europe, of how we should care for the elderly. In many ways, elder care in Norway reflects the straightforward approach to life in general. The goal is to ensure individuals can maintain independence for the longest possible time, even considering how technology can support this.
Pension funding is impressive and businesses are actively encouraged to retain and hire older staff. There is even a National Council for Senior Citizens representing the elder population at a national level!
Whilst there are notable differences between old age care in France and The Netherlands, they both have some interesting elements in common. Both are recognising the importance of the ‘human’ and the societal side of care.
In France, a caregiving method called ‘Humanitude’ focuses on the importance of touch in dementia care. In The Netherlands, they pioneered the introduction of preschools and nurseries within care homes. The same beneficial experiment was popularised recently through the TV programme ‘Old People’s Home for Four Year Olds’.
What is important in both approaches is maintaining and building connections between elderly individuals and the society around them.
We perhaps think of our over-the-pond cousins as being similar to the UK in terms of elder culture. However, whilst we have definitely got issues of ageism to tackle here, it is a particular problem in the USA. There is a cultural belief that the individual must take care of themselves, and of course this can sometimes pose a problem (both financially and logistically) for the elderly.
Problems with elder care in the USA include financial difficulties, isolation and even elder abuse.
In India, grandparents are viewed as the head of the family and indeed the household. Grandparents are often actively involved in raising grandchildren and great-grandchildren whilst the parents work. The older generation doesn’t just dole out advice, but their word goes.
Whilst some of the Indian cultures are becoming more westernised, there remains a notable social stigma about putting a relative in a care home. Whereas we view ourselves as a partner enabling positive relationships between our residents and their families, this is at odds with Indian culture. The family members could find themselves being socially shunned for using a care home!
Having travelled around the globe we’re glad to land safely back in North Devon and Somerset! We too believe in respect for our elders, but we also respect their families and the often difficult position they are in. We hope to bring our British culture firmly into the care we provide from afternoon tea through to the activities we provide which include families.
Come and see for yourself how quintessentially ‘English’ we are, whilst providing exemplary levels of care which support the whole family. We welcome visitors in all our homes and seek to create a culture of respect, dignity and calm for our residents.