The treatment of the elderly in America and East Asia


The treatment of the old is a concept that has attracted a lot of debate in the recent past with many scholars conducting research to determine the variance in the way the elderly are treated in the USA (Goodwin, Dixon, Anderson, & Wodchis, 2014).  Improvement in healthcare and the quality of life has led to an increased life expectation, which means that many societies across the globe will continue having an increase in the number of older adults. This means that the topic of how they are treated will continue directly in the course of discourse in the near future. For example, it is expected that about 4.1% of the American population will be above 80 years by the year 2020. The figures are even higher in countries such as Japan and Korea.  This paper looks at the treatment of the elderly adults in America and compares the same with the treatment in East Asian countries such as Japan, China, and Korea.

Research shows that in the USA, the culture tends to the youth-centric in the sense that it puts a lot of emphasis on attributes such as individualism and independence. The ability to work is valued in the USA, but it diminishes in old age. The implication is that the geriatric in the USA have lonely lives because they are separated from their children and their friends (Singh, 2015). In case they are sick, the elderly are taken to retirement communities where they live with other older adults. Assisted living facilities and nursing homes are also areas where the elderly adults are taken, which keep them away from their children. Old age in the USA is usually viewed with distaste, as most of the people in the society tend to associate it with the inability to walk as well as the inability to work (Goodwin, Dixon, Anderson, & Wodchis, 2014). This is despite the technological advancements in the recent past that assist the old to conduct their activities with ease. The society continues celebrating the youth more than it does to the old. This means that in that the USA to some extent values and appreciates the older adults, they are not accorded as much respect as they deserve (Victor, 2013).

In East, it is clear that these societies are bound by an age-old Confucian principle known as the principle of filial piety, which means the moral of respect for the elderly and the ancestors. According to Singh (2015), the elderly become a responsibility of the adult children. The children are brought up in a way that they understand that they will at some point exchange roles with the parents and take care of them.  In a country like China, there are rules passed to remind the adult children that it is their role to take care of their parents (Shin, 2014). One faces fines or even jail time if he or she does not take care of his or her parents. The children are supposed to visit the parents on a frequent basis to take care of them. This clearly shows that the old people are not to be messed up within China. Japan also puts a lot of emphasis on the old people and their interests in life. The 60th and the 70th birthday of the parents are usually marked with celebrations where children give gifts to the parents and dance to commemorate the achievement. Just like in the Chinese culture, the Koreans believe that the elderly should be respected and celebrated by the members of the society (Goodwin, Dixon, Anderson, & Wodchis, 2014). They expect the children to take up the roles of taking care of the parents when they grow old. It is important to note that taking care of the parents does not only mean providing the financial support but also visiting them. Companies in China are expected to provide the workers with off days to go and visit their parents (Taylor, 2014).

It is evident that the act of adult children taking care of their parents is something that the Americans can learn from people in the Far East. Americans do not accord their elders the respect that is provided to them in the Asian cultures (Shin, 2014). The USA, on the other hand, has something to teach other nations when it comes to taking care of the elders in terms of healthcare (Shin, 2014). The USA ensures that the nursing homes that house the older adults provide them with the necessary healthcare to keep them going.

In conclusion, looking at the cultural differences between America and the countries in the far East, it becomes clear that old age is viewed differently. Nations such as China, Japan and Korea are family-based societies, which mean that the older adults become the responsibility of the adult children. However, the USA is an individualistic society that gives more credit to the youths compared to the older adults. This explains the differences in the way older adults are treated in the two cultures.

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  1. Goodwin, N., Dixon, A., Anderson, G., & Wodchis, W. (2014). Providing Integrated Care For Older People With Complex Needs: Lessons From Seven International Case Studies. London: The King’s Fund201(4).
  2. Shin, J. H. (2014). Making A Home In The Age Of Globalization: A Comparative Analysis Of Elderly Homes In The US And Korea. Journal of Environmental Psychology37, 80-93.
  3. Singh, S. D. (2015). Loneliness, Depression and Sociability in Old Age. The International Journal of Indian Psychology, Volume 2, Issue 2, No. 2, 73.
  4. Taylor, W. D. (2014). Depression in the Elderly. New England Journal of Medicine371(13), 1228-1236.
  5. Victor, C. R. (2013). Old Age in Modern Society: A Textbook of Social Gerontology. Springer.
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