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Difference between Scandinavian and American Models of Elder Care

by Joe Carella, Successful Aging Expert
August 18, 2016

Question: What is the key difference between the Scandinavian and American models for elder care?

Answer: When I began studying the Scandinavian model for elder care, I noticed that the key difference from our American system is the lack of isolation. Elders are encouraged to keep the lives, interests, connections and possessions they had throughout their lives, not to create a new, segregated community cut off from the world. In America, we unfortunately create a lot of country club atmospheres – they’re beautiful, but they can be extremely isolating.

What’s convinced me of this model is both the American research that supports this positive outcome for elders and my firsthand experience traveling in Scandinavia and getting perspective from elders and experts utilizing the many housing options there. Having worked in elder care for 25 years, I can tell you that the understanding of community centered living and the importance of natural and spontaneous human connections with elders in Scandinavia continue to be better than traditional American elder care facilities. I believe it is our collective mission to change that.

Joe Carella, is executive director of the nonprofit Scandinavian Living Center, a unique assisted living residence and the author of Unlimited Options for Aging: Commonsense Answers from Scandinavia.

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