Growing old isn’t viewed the same in different places around the world. There are vast dissimilarities in how societies and cultures treat their elderly. In some countries, getting a streak of grey hair signals incompetence and senility, and old people often get the target of jokes. Others view the senior citizens as a resource drain or as a burden, sending them to residential care homes for others to care for them.
On the other hand, other nations have high reverence and respect for old folks where children accompany and care for their old parents at their home. In certain cultures, mistreating the elderly and will get someone in trouble with the law. In this article, get a picture of the different ways the elderly are treated around the world and how these are closely associated with their most prized traits, values, and social and cultural construct.
Countries in East Asia are bound to the principle of Confucianism called filial piety, which highlights the value of respect for the elderly, ancestors, and fathers. The universal expectation is that bringing up children means eventually changing their roles in the future and adult children will dutifully care for their elderly parents. Deeply anchored on their traditional values, it is deemed to be an honor for a child to care for his or her old parents and utterly detestable if someone does otherwise.
In Japan, seniors are treated with maximum respect. Many families in the country can be observed with several generations living under the same roof. Truth to be told, the elderly outnumber younger ones with more people aged over 65 comprising Japan’s population.
Koreans also commemorate old age. In Korea, people consider 60th and 70th birthdays as considered notable life events and celebrate them through family feasts and parties. The Japanese do the same, honoring the reach of such ages with festivities where children offer presents and conduct dance performances.
On the other hand, young Indians follow a tradition called “Charan Sparsh,” which is renowned to be a sign of respect, love, and a request for their blessing of intellect, knowledge, fame, and strength.
While the Chinese also follows the same Confucian tradition, things have been a bit more complex in the country lately due to rapid industrialization. Such change has forced people to move to urban areas for work opportunities, leaving elderly parents alone in rural areas.
With that, an “Elderly Rights Law” has been passed in China to inform adult children never to forget and neglect their seniors, and mandates them to occasionally visit their parents regardless of proximity. Violating the law entails punishment varying from fines to jail time, which entails that old Chinese people should be prioritized and valued.
Just like in China, the elderly in Singapore are also covered by laws to protect their interest. Parents may sue their adult children to get an allowance. Not being able to comply may also result in jail time.
The U.K. and the U.S.
Culture in the West appears to incline more of the youth, focusing on the traits of independence and individualism. It traces back to the working principle in Protestantism where a person’s value is linked to one’s capability to work, which something that dwindles as individual ages. In countries in the U.K. and the United States, old people live lonelier lives compared to their Asian counterparts as they tend to age far from their children, spending their retirement in nursing homes, and assisting living communities and facilities.
The Latin and Mediterranean Countries
Latin and Mediterranean countries have a high reverence for their families and respect for the elderly is considered a cultural norm. It is common to see multiple family generations living under a single roof. People from both cultures embrace all the duties and responsibilities demanded by having an extended family. In this setup, old folks stay with their families until their last days. They usually care for the younger family members while their adult children serve as breadwinners, and work to provide for their needs.
Like the Latin and Mediterranean people, African-Americans value the elderly and integrate old folks into their families until their final moments. Aging is commemorated and funerals are usually characterized by affirmations about life in a jubilant manner blended with ample air of despair.
The elderly are treated differently around the world. Some countries and societies admire old age, while others tend to have a different level of esteem for aging. What is remarkable is that as people new changes happen to the world we live in, some adapt to keep everything in line with their cherished traditions and cultures. If others can do it, we hope to see all places provide the same high respect and value for elders.