A combination of factors influences the quality of well-being in late-life. Families, government programs and services, faith and social communities, and health care are the threads from which individuals in a culture and country weave together these resources to meet their needs in late live.
Over the past 3-months I have visited Iceland, Netherlands, Italy and Scotland with an eye to Senior Services. My overall impression is the Scotland has been far most comprehensive approach (see blog on Age Orkney, posted August 3). By comprehensive, I mean aging is not synonymous with disability but providing services for older adults from dependent-to-independent, disease-to-healthy, and addressing economic, personal physical, social, emotional and home-based issues as well. Age Orkney states an overall mission as “Helping people to love later life” makes it clear that the goal is not merely to survive but to thrive in later life.
Iceland seemed the least mature in terms of a fabric of senior services. Noted by locals as under serving older adults and seen as a rural issue because by-in-large Iceland is rural with only one city of size, Reykjavik. (See blog posted on May 23, 2018, Icelalnd).
The Netherlands appears to have a patchwork of services that were accessed through faith communities and depend upon the social networks to come to the aid of their peers. However, some Brugge restaurants do cater to those with dementia and designate their status with a blue pink knotted scarf as a symbol. (See blog posted on May 23, 2018, Brugge)
In Italy’s villages, residents are unlikely to move far from where they were born and raised. In general, this makes for families and communities that are close-knit. People are still living within blocks of where they grew up. The language shows the lack of distinction in nieces, nephews, grandchildren who are all called napote. There doesn’t seem to be the social pressure on governments to establish a social, physical and emotional safety net for their older citizens. Medical needs are taken care of through the universal health care system. (See the blog posted August 3, on Septuagenarians). But there doesn’t seem to be a comprehensive plan for addressing the home management needs of the older citizens. The Seniors Club in Toscolano appears to be an anomaly. (The Seniors Club is addressed in the blog entitled: Seniors Club Toscolano-Maderno Italy; posted August 3.) The UK seems to be unique in progressive forethought into late-live as time to thrive. Perhaps it’s pipeline for older citizens to bring forth matters and advocate for late life issues has jump started its vision of high quality of life in later years.
Capitalizing on the policies and practices in the UK, the US passed “The Older Americans Act” in 1965 along with universal health care for older adults. This act ultimately provided justification and a funding mechanism to local counties to develop a network of senior services throughout the country. I have been extensively involved with Senior Centers in Colorado, Wisconsin, Georgia, and Washington State. While they vary broadly in their service the inclusion of proper nutrition, education, socialization and exercise is almost universal. BSAC has some of the best programming I’ve seen. We are fortunate in Bellingham to have this excellent resource.