In 2013 the Chinese government passed a law, called the “The Elderly Rights Law” The law is essentially a warning to adult children “never neglect or snub your elderly parents” and if you do, you could face a hefty fine, of even jail time. The law says that grown children who cannot take care of their aging parents, must visit them; even if they live very far away. Eastern cultures like China’s follow the Confucian tradition of “filial piety,” which means family comes first, and elders get the highest forms of respect.
Unlike Eastern cultures Western cultures tend to be much more youth-centric. And in countries like the United States, we praise attributes like individualism, good work ethic and independence, something that tends to diminish with age. Anthropologist Jared Diamond, who has studied the treatment of the elderly across cultures, has said that the elderly in countries like the U.K. and U.S. have “lonely lives separated from their children and lifelong friends. As their health deteriorates, the elderly in these cultures often move to retirement communities, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes.”
If an aging person does not live at home with family members, or lives at home alone, they truly need company. And although fining, or jail time for failing to do so might not work in America; that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be taken that seriously. Just because someone is older, doesn’t mean they don’t need human interaction, doesn’t mean they aren’t still full of life and vitality.
Written by: Carly James
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