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August 21st Is “World Senior Citizen’s Day”

Celebrate With Helpful Elder-Care Tips From Other Cultures!

When it comes to caring for seniors, the United States has led the charge in some ways but has also lagged in others. On one hand, our country has kept its promises regarding Social Security and Medicare benefits, despite fiscal challenges. But on the other hand, American culture isn’t particularly noted for revering the elderly. And few families in the United States live in intergenerational households.

With the upcoming “World Senior Citizen’s Day” on August 21st, now might be a good time for thoughtful Americans to look at aging across the world and how other societies treat their elderly loved ones.

“Team Family”
Many Asian countries are renowned for their respect of older folks. But Vietnam boasts a special reverence for seniors. Most Vietnamese live in intergenerational homes, with relatives of all ages living under one roof. Seniors are not viewed as “burdens” but are instead valued as wise leaders with much to contribute.

Accordingly, Vietnamese children and young adults are expected to do their part by helping to care for elderly family members. The American saying goes something like, “It takes a village to raise a child.” But in Vietnam, they recognize it takes a family to care for aging loved ones.

While national cultures will always have differences, American families can still take a page from the Vietnamese playbook. Even if “Mom” doesn’t live with the family, her grandchildren can still prioritize making weekly visits. And perhaps a lonely grandmother would relish the opportunity to assist her grandson with his math homework if only given the chance; a true win-win!

Special Accommodations
Japan is home to the world’s most elderly population. Such an international distinction might overwhelm the leaders of many Western countries. However, the Japanese have instead embraced it and have responded with efforts to accommodate the needs of seniors.

General-use reading glasses are widely available at banks, and public signs include large type to make reading easier. Japan even celebrates every September 17th as “Respect for the Aged Day.” While many of these efforts are initiated by the government, Americans can still apply the principle when caring for their own aging loved ones.

It’s easy for younger, healthier relatives to forget the challenges faced by older family members. But with a bit of effort, most people can learn to stay sensitive to seniors’ special needs. Perhaps “Grandma” squints while reading and would benefit from a magnifying device or audio books. Or maybe a new battery would give “Uncle Louie’s” motorized wheelchair more range and improve his mobility and quality of life.

Life Opportunities
Many Americans view higher education as a realm for younger people who haven’t yet began their careers or started families. So, most would be shocked to learn that a large portion of university students in Germany are over the age of 65. And aging Germans also spend considerable time traveling the world, pursuing new experiences even in their golden years.

Ultimately, older adults can be just as curious and adventurous as younger folks. Families should never assume their aging loved ones no longer crave excitement. Now might be a good time to ask “Grandpa” if he’d like to enroll in an online college course or even participate in the annual Hawaii vacation!

Senior Advocacy
Families in Sweden embrace many of the values and perspectives on aging already discussed. But beyond their personal commitment to caring for older relatives—as evidenced by the fact that nine out of ten seniors in Sweden say they can rely on their family for care needs—they also work hard on senior advocacy. In other words, Swedes take elder care both personally and politically.

While America does have advocacy groups for older adults, such as the AARP, seniors in the U.S. still lack political influence when compared to other special interest groups. For example, caregiver services and long-term care communities are not covered by Medicare despite decades of petitioning. But the battle for seniors is ongoing, and political advancements can be made with the help of younger allies!

Digital and computing advancements are improving the lives of seniors across the entire world, including the United States. However, some countries have been quicker than others when it comes to leveraging technological solutions. And the afore-mentioned Japan and Germany are among the most forward-thinking nations in this respect.

Both countries have worked hard to keep older adults healthy and safe in their own homes through “smart” technologies, food delivery programs and even the use of robot caregivers. While most Americans aren’t quite ready to buy “Grandma” a robot, there are amazing technological solutions available domestically. And personal emergency response solutions (PERS) are among the most affordable and impactful.

For example, U.S.-based LifeFone offers PERS technology that promotes senior safety both in the home and “on the go.” LifeFone will send alerts in the event of accidental falls or other medical emergencies. Moreover, the company’s advanced solutions can even detect household hazards such as fires! 

Parting Thoughts
Ultimately, the United States does a rather good job as a country when it comes to caring for seniors. But no culture is perfect, and Americans can certainly learn from the practices of other nations. Politically speaking, we must continue to honor Social Security obligations while working to responsibly expand Medicare benefits. But on a personal level, Americans must also commit to better honoring their aging loved ones by empowering them with all available tools and a helping hand.

If you’re seeking technology that will improve the safety of your aging family member, be sure to speak with a LifeFone representative today for a variety of personalized solutions!

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