Why aging is so different among various cultures?

In western societies, we were taught from a young age to respect our elders. We are usually conditioned to give up our seats on buses, trains and benches in shopping centres to the elderly. Discounts on bus fees, haircuts, cinemas and gym membership are made affordable them as their pension cannot cover the average fees, as those from higher class backgrounds and active members of society can. We were discouraged from using inappropriate language, such as profanity,  languages of sexual nature or languages which reflects on ageism at their personal space as we do around children. We would see old people as lovely and wonderful people who say “hello” to people as they walk past.

However, as time moves on and things start to change, some people begin to show a lack of respect towards old people. Nowadays, the elderly are targeted for fraud, mugging, burglary and harassment. Newspaper articles are plastered with photos of old people covered in black eyes and bruises, having been mugged and attacked by young people. Even stories and news reports features them becoming victims of white-collar crimes to serious and disturbing crimes, such as rape, sexual assault and even murder. The elderly are now being perceived as “feeble and vulnerable” burdens to society (BBC News). Stories reveal that old people are now on the receiving end of  medical treatment, treated disrespectfully and neglected in hospitals and care homes. There are subconscious common belief that  young people do not show any respect towards old people and now rarely, people do not even make an attempt to give up their seats for the elderly and even pregnant women in buses and trains.

Old age is seen as historical and cultural and construction of a natural phenomenon. There are few positive views on ageing, as it’s inevitable and it’s a life process, they are seen as the “masters” of knowledge, they live in a centuries where well-known historical events happen such as World War, The Holocaust and the Racial Segregation in the 1940s. In the negative perspective, they are perceived to be a problem to society and an economic burden in the healthcare and social security sectors. They are dependent on other people, such as their caregivers, adult children and members from health and social services. They are already be deprived of their independence because of their physical health, particularly limited mobility. They often live alone, either widowed, separated or suffering from empty nest syndrome, a feeling of emptiness when their children grown up and flew the nest.

In African societies, old people are often treated with respect and dignity and seen as superior to the young generation. Unfortunately, old people make up the growing population of people living in poverty in areas that economically deprived and underdeveloped according to BBC News.  They are much more vulnerable than children to contact any illness such as, malaria, fever and HIV and AIDS. They start to play roles as caregivers to their ill stricken adult children and orphaned grandchildren. In India and China, old people live in extended and reconstituted families with their married children and grandchildren. There are some explanations why old people are knowledgeable because they have vast load of life experiences, than the young and middle age people. Some of them spend their retirement going on cruises, take up a new hobby or even go travelling or attempt to write a great novel.

Society stereotypically views the elderly as grumpy with have no sense of humour, whilst some of them are happy to tell stories and make jokes in a way to cope with negative burdens in which old age may bring.  They are well-mannered and seen as senior citizens and do not tolerate offensive language. Their upbringings and education and experiences have made them matured and carry a huge bag of  wisdom, eager to donate to the younger generation as they witnessed various historical events. Thus old age should be seen as a burden nor as a root of envy. Most of all, should be seen as an inevitable process, which may bring a series of emotions which are seen in other life changes.

In America, older people are spoiled by luxuries since social security facilities were started in 1935. The life expectancy in america has increased to 77 years. They are taking advantage of good quality healthcare and prescription drugs. Some of them are wealthy with an income worth $100,000. In Argentina, the elderly are mistreated economically and socially and often neglected. They make up just under 12% of the population. Some of them receive old age pension whilst more than 1.5 million have no insurance and live in the line of poverty.  In Abkhazistan, a suburb in southern Russia, 1 in 4000 live beyond 100 years old and make up the population of old people living longer. They do not have worries about ageing as us, Britons and secondly, they work beyond the retirement age, working in fields, where they take care of the flocks of sheep and look after their great-grandchildren.

In Britain and western societies, old age is seen as a problem economically and physically.  However in other societies, the elderly are seen as powerful and superior by knowledge and wisdom, such as Japan, where they continue to work enabling them to gain prestige, wealth, power and status. Old people have more life experiences than the younger generation because they grew up in poverty, severe hardships where facilities were not available, witnessed historical unforgettable events, that provided them with valuable lessons and provision of a rich dose of wisdom and resiliency. During their time they never had economic rewards like we have now, such as technology, sanitation, better education and improved healthcare and medical facilities ,which we take for granted.


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