I would like to explain „Das Leuchtturmprojekt“, the lighthouse project, in the nursing institution „Pflegestift Esslingen-Kennenburg".
Last autumn, my senior student gave a presentation about their activity of visiting the Altenheim (nursing home for elderly people) in Esslingen. When I listened to that, I was soon interested in it because I had the same kind of experience in Japan. My grandmother and father were taken care of in nursing homes in Japan.
Also, I thought the issue about how to cope with aging society in Japan and Germany. According to McKinsey Quarterly, Japan is the world’s oldest country - 25% of its people are aged 65 or over. By 2040, that percentage is expected to increase to the historically unprecedented level of 36 percent. I came up with the questions: What does Japan have in common with Germany? What is the difference? Then, I raised my hand to become a leader for this project to discover something in Esslingen.
In February, I first met a coordinator for the volunteer network in the Altenheim, Ms. Silke Köhler. She welcomed me and kindly explained the project and took me to the rooms in the Altenheim. The rooms were clean individual spaces.
From March to July, I asked my classmates in our WhatsApp Group or in person to join the project. I was glad that many of my classmates are cooperative and spontaneously joined this project though we had regular exams and assignments. It was a great opportunity to deal with professionally managing the schedule with international students.
When it comes to the meeting with residents in the Altenheim, the language is German. It was a very good chance to practice real German language for us. Sometimes we needed to understand a local language, Schwäbisch. This is the same in Japan, elderly people tend to use local dialect with strong accents. I felt I need to learn Gernam language more profoundly.
The more I got involved in the project, the more enjoyable the meetings were. Some of the residents are very energetic and talked about their stories. I respected how they went through their experience in their young days.
I want to make this activity continue and hope the next students take over this project. Ms. Köhler said that this project enables us to make the world a little bit better and on the other hand to connect to two aspects: culture and ages.