Elders and respect

Still on the topic of family and cultural issues, I’m now after your views on the elderly.

At the moment I am researching for a feature article I am writing about how elders are treated around the world.

I’m interested in how elderly people are viewed in society by others, how they are respected and how they are utilised and valued in older age.

I’ve already interviewed an Indian daughter about her relationship with the elders in her family.

She told me that after 10 years of living in Australia, she still can’t believe how youth-obsessed Australia is compared to India and how old people are joked about here compared to the high respect they are given in India.

Don’t get me wrong, the majority of people in Australia will always stand up for an older person on the bus or help them across the road if they’re struggling with heavy bags, but the way she compared it to India was interesting.

I love my grandparents dearly and I’m very close to both my nan and pop on my mum’s side however I feel in general, people here don’t have the same level of respect as in other cultures like Indian and Nepalese.

Rabindra is also very close to his grandparents and misses them dearly. He looked after his grandfather, giving him injections for his diabetes and staying with him in hospital for days on end when his grandfather became sick.

The whole point of the story is not to bag us westerners, but rather open our eyes to the ways other cultures live and see what we can learn from international examples.


                                                 Image courtesy of Elderhome

Share your thoughts here on how older people are treated in your culture.

P.S. Keep an eye out for my final story in my articles section.

This entry was posted in Cross-cultural, Culture, Differences, Family, Nepal and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Elders and respect

  1. Diane says:

    When I was travelling in Bulgaria, one of the poorest European countries I went to, I noticed the quality of life for the elderly was lacking. Many of them had to work in markets selling produce they had grown and items they had made just to have enough money to survive. I thought it was quite sad and how fortunate the elderly are in Australia to have the pension and good superannuation companies. Here is in article on the quality of life in Bulgaria. http://www.investbulgaria.com/QualityOfLife.php
    My Nanna and Pop have a lady who comes around to help with housework etc. on a regular basis. They are so lucky to have these services available to them.

    • Hey diane, yes you are right when you compare australian pensioners to those in some other cultures. I also remember seeing a very powerful documentary on mentally ill children in bulgaria. it was called “bulgaria’s abandoned children” or something like that. you should watch it

  2. luckyfatima says:

    Well, I have had South Asians tell me that Americans don’t really love their own children and the children don’t love their parents. They say our love is shallow, compared to deep Asian love and filial piety. They give evidence for this by saying that Americans make their children move out at age 18, and so they feel no attachment to home. American children put their elders in senior citizen care homes. Anyway, this is of course utter nonsense. I believe that both cultures have respect for elders. Statistically, many Americans do care for and elderly parent (although this is after another parent has passed away). Also, it isn’t really about respect for the elderly, but personal autonomy. I have no doubt that any American would give up their seat on the bus to a senior citizen or offer to carry her grocery bags or help her in anyway. However, in many traditional South Asian families, elders are seen as people whose opinions are very weighty in family/personal decisions. I actually think this is a bad thing at times because sometimes elders’ views are retrogressive.

    Of course this is a generalization, but American youngsters “talk back” to their parents or get into arguments with them. They contradict their parents and express disagreement. Traditionally, this is very bad to contradict one’s elders for South Asians.

    I do think that the typical snide American teenager attitude is a negative aspect of my culture. On the other hand, I think it is a boon to be able to admit that our parents are wrong and also see them as people who have flaws, especially later as adults. Once again, I am generalizing here, but in South Asian cultures often parents/elders are propped up as infallible and put on a pedestal. Naturally, no one is perfect, and so when a parent fails or has flaws, it is ultra devastating because this is someone who has violated a role of perfection.

    About the Americans arguing with parents and elders: I recently left Dubai and returned home to the US and am now living with my parents until my husband finds a job. My Western friends in Dubai said things like “Wow, you are going to live with your parents? My mom would drive me crazy, I could never do that.” Sooo many Westerners (Anglophone North Americans, UK, Aussie, Kiwi, S. Africans at my work) expressed something like this to me. My South Asian friends (Indian, Pakistani) said “Oh that is so great that you have your parents, I bet that they can’t wait to have their grandkids living with them! They must miss you guys so much” A totally different attitude!

    • HI LF. i am so glad you posted this. It’s excellent and will also help with my story. It’s interesting see how south-east asian parents view western culture. Hopefully the “not loving their parents/children” view is not widely believed.

      Your last para about living with parents is 100% true. in our culture you are seen as a bit of a loser if you have to live with parents. however many have told me that in asia it’s not like that at all and people feel so blessed to live with their parents. It’s a really nice concept

  3. Abby says:

    I look forward to reading your article Casey! Here are some of my musings…

    I found it interesting that in Japan, older people seem more active in different fields of employment. For example, there are quite a few McDonald’s staff who are older women. And jobs like traffic controllers and street sweepers are often held by older men.

    In Japan and Australia, I noticed a difference between Asian families who had spent time living in Western countries compared to those who hadn’t. From my observations it seems those exposed to Western ways are more likely to live apart from their elders and not rely on each other so much.

    I am really interested in the move towards nursing homes in Chinese speaking societies. Attitudes are changing slowly. In Taiwan, it is common for elderly people to live at home with family, and often with hired nursing help. But with the increase in dementia as people are living longer, I believe aged care is going to become more common as it is hard for average families to afford in-home, round-the-clock care when elders have special needs.

    • Abby you are right about those exposed to western culture being more independent and not rely on each other so much. Also, the concept of filial piety is especially strong in countries like Japan, Korea and China. And as we both know, aged care is a massive issue here in Australia!!

  4. luckyfatima says:


    I think that the views on elders in Anglophone Western cultures versus South Asian cultures both have positive and negative aspects, and neither way is the “right” way. But I wanted you to see this post to understand what I meant about the problem with infallibility of elders (I was thinking of elders disallowing a child to pursue her choice of studies, or to marry a person of her choice, or to leave an abusive husband, etc). I came across this post today about a woman in a bad marriage. Read the comments, too. You will find this on elders being unsupportive of women in bad marriages:

    Because the elders do not want to have a “confrontation” with men.
    Traditional respect means
    1. You will not disagree with your elders.
    2. The word of the elders is the law, how ever wrong they are.
    3. You owe your existence to the people who raised you. you are obliged to them.
    4. You DO NOT question them . Disagreeing is a sign of DIS RESPECT.
    5. women are objects of possession. women are pets. Keep them in a cage and give them instructions. They are not legal adults who can take decisions. Honor killing takes place to protect their posession and status quo and not out of compassion or good will.

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