Last month, I referenced my time volunteering in Italy and how it didn’t exactly prepare me for working in the field at home. There are so many differences between how we do things here versus there. I’ve narrowed down to five of the bigger contrasts (and included some photos for comparison).
- Aesthetics: Our senior living communities are gorgeous, but their design is geared more toward adult children than the actual seniors who will ultimately reside in them. We say they’re “home like”, but according to who? I’d love some of the decor in my own home, but I’d never find it at my grandma’s. In Italy, they’re much more practical and definitely more appealing to the residents themselves.
- Grounds: Obviously, few communities stateside will be in locations that hold a candle to some of the settings in Italy. Panoramic views aside, though, I was pleasantly surprised by a few things: gardens and outdoor sitting areas/walking paths. One thing I’m not crazy about here are our second and third floor outdoor patios, as they’re so limiting and, in my opinion, a bit claustrophobic. In the italian communities I’ve visited and worked at, the outdoor space is so impressive (and you don’t need a passcode to get to it!).
- Food: I meannnnn.. this one goes without saying! Nothing compares to the food in Italy, even in senior living communities.
- Uniforms: This is another point of contention for me, right up there with upper level patios. What I particularly loved about uniforms in Italy was that they were neat and professional but not super clinical. Overnight, for instance, there was a pajama-like uniform that was especially helpful for residents with dementia who may have trouble deciphering between day and nighttime. On that same note, they also dimmed all the lights in the communities overnight to further clarify time of day for those who otherwise may not be sure. I don’t know how we keep ours on so bright 24/7 then wonder why some residents confuse their days and nights!
- Dignity: Don’t get me wrong, dignity is huge here too (it better be!), but it’s on another level in Italy. It’s considered to be an honor and a privilege to work with seniors overseas. People like me and the countless others I’ve volunteered with even pay to donate our time! This isn’t an employee issue, though – it’s a societal one. It’s also something I’m trying to change.