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When you and your family members decide that senior living is the best option for you, a variety of factors needs to be discussed. Besides choosing the basic type of senior living facility that best suits your needs, you also need to take into account if there is a language barrier and how it can affect your daily life.

English is not the first language of many seniors who were not born in the United States. Although they may be able to speak English from being in this country over the years, many do not feel comfortable conversing in it on a daily basis, especially when it has to do with their medical needs.

That’s why language specific senior living options exist. These facilities recognize the need to make seniors feel comfortable in any environment they choose. Let’s take a look at how language barriers can affect senior living and why finding a facility that caters to a specific language is so important.

How Language Barriers Affect Senior Living

For many seniors, entering a new living environment can be intimidating and sometimes even scary. There are new surroundings to adapt to and new people to meet. Add in a language barrier and the dynamic shifts greatly. A language barrier can severely impact the following areas:

  • Medical care. Although doctors and nurses on staff will be aware of your medical needs by reviewing your records, communicating problems and new needs that arise can become difficult. While many places will bring in translators to help, they will not do any good in the case of an emergency. In these instances, language barriers can become life threatening.
  • Language barriers and dementia. Language barriers can become especially dangerous when dealing with dementia patients. While staff at some facilities is trained to deal with the challenges that come with memory loss patients, they may not be fluent in their patient’s native language. This can pose great problems when it comes to care and safety.
  • Loneliness and depression. If you cannot communicate with other people you may be more apt to feelings of depression and loneliness. While many senior living facilities and communities can be great places to meet new people, that perk loses its luster if you cannot communicate comfortably.

Finding a Senior Living Facility that Caters to a Specific Language

Since language barriers at senior living facilities and communities can lead to serious, and sometimes even life-threatening problems, finding one that caters to your language is of the utmost importance. Not only can you communicate easier, you may find other perks in these facilities that cater to specific languages.

  • Medical benefits. When the language barrier is taken away patients and staff can talk easily about medical care. In the case of emergency, a patient can express his or her problems and get the immediate care that is needed. Patients can also ask questions and get the answers they need in a timely manner. When there are no language barriers, patients can feel more comfortable that their medical needs are being met.
  • Cultural benefits. Many language specific senior living facilities will also cater to cultural needs. They are well-versed in the language and culture and know what is acceptable and what is not. Staff at these facilities will be familiar with the customs associated with the language and will abide by them. This also aids in making the residents feel more comfortable.
  • Religious benefits. If there are certain religious beliefs associated with the language that is primarily spoken at a senior living facility, typically religious needs will also be handed as well. This can include prayer groups and religious services said in that particular language.
  • Entertainment benefits. Many times senior living facilities will bring in entertainment that people who speak a certain language will enjoy. This can include musical programs, speakers, and dancers. This type of entertainment can also foster communication and friendships among residents helping to keep them from feeling lonely and depressed.
  • Food & diet benefits. When a senior living facility caters to a specific language many times it will also try to incorporate certain foods its residents prefer. Traditional Hispanic dishes may be served in facilities that speak Spanish while typical Asian foods may be served at Japanese or Korean facilities.

As you can see, the benefits of language specific senior living go far beyond the words that are spoken. While better communication is the priority, the perks that go along with language specific senior living are also beneficial for residents. They help to improve the quality of life of those seniors who choose that specific facility.

Whether you’re looking to learn more about Japanese, Korean, Chinese, or Spanish senior living, we have valuable information to help you make an informed decision.


Written By

Jeff Hoyt

Editor in Chief

Since graduating from Harvard with an honors degree in Statistics, Jeff has been creating content in print, online, and on television. Much of his work has been dedicated to informing seniors on how to live better lives. As Editor-in-Chief of the personal… Learn More About Jeff Hoyt

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