Growing Old Around the World

old-peopleThanks to technology, health improvements, and better nutrition, people are living longer these days.  This shift in culture brings a lot of possibilities, but it also raises the question of how we care for our elderly.  Growing old looks completely different depending on where you live.  In some parts of the world, the oldest members of society are revered, honored, and looked up to, whereas in the other parts, they are seen as senile and incompetent, the butt of jokes.  In some societies, children take care of their parents as they age, and in others children put their parents in assisted living residences where others care for them.  

How do we define how old “old” is?  In the United States, we consider a senior citizen someone who is over the age of 65.  But in other parts of the world, like New Guinea, anyone over the age of 50 is considered elderly.  The United Nations considers elderly to be 60 and above.  

And where do our older population live? In China, Japan, and Korea, about ¾ of the senior population live with their children.  In fact, there is even a law in China that mandates that children visit their parents frequently, no matter how far away they live.  Fines or jail time are the consequences for not complying with this law.  France also has a civil code that requires adult children to “keep in touch” with their parents.  

A culture’s respect for its older population is often echoed in its language.  In Hindi, there are suffixes such as -ji that allow speakers to add an extra level of respect to important people. And in many parts of Africa, the word mzee is used to communicate a high level of respect for elders. In contrast, a lot of areas in the United States tend to caricature the elderly, and think of them as senile and slow.  

Certain societies even credit magical powers to the elderly. “The Huaorani people of Ecuador believe that elderly shamans, called mengatoi, are endowed with magical powers. This society believes that shamans can transform into jaguars.”

As you can see, how we treat, think of, and speak to our seniors says a lot about us as a culture and what we value.  One way to value our loved ones is to make sure they are cared for by the best possible people in the best possible home.  Sometimes that means an assisted living home.  BayView Senior Assisted Living home is here to take care of your loved one with caring, well-trained staff, up-to-date amenities, and top-notch resources.  Visit us today to take a tour or find out more.