Within Eastern Asian cultures of Korea and China, elders are highly honored. Much of this regard for aging is rooted in the Confucian principle of filial piety. It is a fundamental value dictating respect for one’s parents. Younger members of the family have a duty to care for the aging members of the family. Filial piety and brotherly respect are considered root of humanity.
Korean custom encourages a large celebration to mark an individual’s 60th birthday as a way to celebrate their parents’ passage into old age. A similar large family celebration is also held for the 70th birthday, known as kohCui (“old and rare”).
Although westernization, China’s one-child policy, and longer life expectancy has lessened the influence of these values in some areas, adult children are still generally expected to care for their elderly parents. While abandoning one’s family is considered “dishonorable”, nursing home placement of elders is beginning to become more of a socially acceptable option.
Within India, extended family may live in joint family units, where the elders act as the head of the household. The elders are supported by the younger members of the family and they play a key role in raising grandchildren. The advice of elders is often sought and obeyed in matters such as finance, traditional ceremonies, and family conflict. Social stigma is associated with disrespecting elders or sending them to an old age home.
Elders were a likewise precious resource in ancient Rome. While the average life expectancy about about 25 years at the time, some individuals did live into their 70’s. Elders were cherished for their wisdom, experience, and as an example for the young to follow as was ingrained in Roman society.
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