In traditional societies, elderly relatives are cared for; revered even, despite the fact they can no longer contribute. Yet in our supposedly ‘developed’ western society, we routinely push our elderly parents into poorly run care homes or abandon them to a life of neglect, visited only by paid care workers instead of loving relatives.
The media is full of stories of old and vulnerable people being abused in care homes, or neglected by their relatives. The problem is that isn’t always easy to prove deliberate neglect. Hidden cameras help, and if you do secure proof that your elderly relative is being abused, you can use elder abuse attorneys such as Garcia Law to bring the matter to court, but what happens if an old person has nobody to be an advocate for their needs?
Respect the Elderly
Whereas our elders are treated with little respect, in other cultures, it’s a very different story. In Korea, for example, younger members of the family have a duty of care to look after their elderly relatives. In China, this is also the case, and to abandon one’s parents in a nursing home is viewed as deeply dishonorable. In India, too, disrespecting elders is stigmatized by society.
Yet the situation is so very different in the U.S. and Europe, where youth is venerated and the elderly are pushed out to the side-lines of community life. Many experts believe that our treatment of the aged stems from deeply held beliefs about natural aging and death itself. Buddhists celebrate death whereas westerners fear old age and do everything in their power to stay forever young, even to the point of fighting the natural aging process by way of cosmetic surgery. Public figures are torn apart by the media when they are photographed looking ‘old’ and ‘past it’, so they do everything humanly possible to stay looking young.
Growing Old is Part of Life
Growing old is all part of life and being old is not something to be ashamed of. The older generation have plenty to offer society. They have experience, knowledge, and skills the younger generation lack. Older people can provide childcare while younger family members work. This has many benefits, including saving money and allowing the older generation to impart their knowledge to the younger generation.
From time immemorial, older people have passed down their stories, skills and knowledge. Without such a process, many important things would have been lost forever. In Native American cultures the elders are expected to pass on their learnings to their children and grandchildren. It’s a rite of passage to ensure the younger generation learn from the teachings – and mistakes – of their forebears.
We can all learn from this. Just because our elderly parents have become a burden, it doesn’t mean we should abandon them to their fate. We all have a duty of care to look after older members of society, so next time you walk past your elderly neighbor’s home, call on them to see if they need any groceries or a chat. It’s the right thing to do.