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Perhaps the secret ingredient to caring for elders in other countries is what makes each experience similar: honoring culture.

In Canada, immigration policies are much more liberal than they are in the United States, says Extendicare’s Tim Lukenda. “We have very multicultural, ethnic populations in pockets throughout Canada,” he says. So Extendicare aligns its operations to suit different cultural needs, whether they be Chinese or other populations that it caters to. This comes through in the menus, with services and programming.

In China, the emphasis is on traditions.

“We try to deliver an international standard service, but we do so with a respect for Chinese traditions,” says Nate McLemore of Cascade Healthcare. The menu and the way facilities decorate are certainly geared toward the Chinese audience.

The decision a family makes about moving into a facility has much to do with what almost everyone cares about when they are in a center, he says. Elders want to have a community and have some activities and know that they’re being cared for ethically. “But food is super important,” he says. “If you don’t get the food right, people are really unhappy.

Sue Coppola“If you think about those all being attributes of the elders in the U.S., that similarity is pretty remarkable.”
In England, preserving teatime is critical. It’s a very important part of residents’ lives at Sunrise. “Activities, the way you establish all of your recreational programs, you do not interfere with teatime,” says Sue Coppola of Sunrise Senior Living.

Sunrise’s dining services coordinators take special pride in providing optimized meals and special items that are representative of the residents living in the community. “So, if you’re in a community in Boston, maybe the chef is incorporating a lobster roll, whereas in California the residents may really want a fresh salad with shrimp for lunch,” says Coppola. “In England, they want their meat with bits of fish. It’s so important for them.”

Another cultural difference is how people like to spend their time, varied by culture. Sunrise’s recreational and activities programs are centered around resident choice and cultural differences. “Holistically, you’re talking about clinical care, programming, dining—this all makes up their personalized experience,” Coppola says.

Most team members are local to the community. They, too, can offer that local knowledge and give a helping hand in preserving culture. “They all go together,” she says. “The happier the person, the better their well-being.”