It certainly isn’t a cultural universal. In many nations around the world, particularly Eastern ones, the older generations are venerated and respected for their wisdom.
In Korea and China, for example, the people are still influenced by Confucian principles. One of them is filial piety. It is expected that you show respect, deference, and honor to your parents and to the elderly in general. This kind of respect is considered at the root of a strong society.
Contrast this with the West, particularly the United States. My father became disabled with MS and I was unable to continue caring for him because I was unable to lift him and he needed skilled nursing care 24/7.
It is an understatement to say that elderly people are infantilized. And this happened at multiple nursing homes, as I had to keep moving him because the level of care was shit. Elderly people are spoken to as if they are children, basic respect for them is ignored even when they could be afforded a higher level of privacy and dignity.
The most horrifying is the consensus among “caregivers” that once you become unable to walk and “too sick” (which really means they have to exert some effort to care for you) they decide it is time for you to be put into hospice to begin “the journey.” This is a Boomer conceived notion that if you don’t want to die or if your family doesn’t want you to die that you are “afraid of death,” “not letting go,” and “not being compassionate.” In reality it is a functional death panel. Even worse is that hospice in America is frequently for profit. So the salesmen of death get bonuses if you unload your loved ones to them to begin “the journey.”
“The journey” means them not letting you drink water or eat food as to hasten your death. They try to sell it to you as “receiving extra comfort care but you can still get treatment if you need it,” but this is a goddamn lie. As a lawyer I always read the fine print, and it said that by taking part in hospice you “waive your right to have Medicare pay for your treatment related medical care,” meaning you only receive comfort care, not treatment to keep you alive or sustain you.
Most families are so traumatized by their loved one being ill they are slipped the wet peter by these people. Hospice is fast food death, American style.
The reason elderly people are not valued in American society is because we are a nation of hustlers, religious extremists, and individualists. We are always “on the make,” and we value being young, beautiful, and being a “value producer.” Once you cannot buy, sell, or be gun fodder for the military, you best sit your ass on the ice canoe and float out to sea. Human life isn’t worth much in America. Wisdom from old people is considered passe, and certainly not relevant. What might an old person know about life, having grown up during the Great Depression, fought in WWII, rebuilt America, and seen decades of changes? Storming the Beaches of Normandy? Please. That was a million years ago, right? No, we are too focused on building another startup so we can produce the 28th flavor of gourmet ketchup, or some hookup app, or whatever.
Love plays very little part in American society. It is a violent, racist, paranoid, selfish culture. And I am not making this up. In fact, it has been scientifically proven. Perhaps the best word I can use to describe America is “mean.” It is a very mean place.
Getting back to the situation with my father. The nursing home administrators and staff considered me mentally unbalanced because I would throw a fit when I visited him and he was sitting in a pool of his own urine, or when I refused to put him in hospice so they didn’t have to deal with him, and this was multiple nursing homes.
But this is nothing compared to what just happened to my maternal grandfather. My grandmother had always been verbally abusive to my grandfather. Over the last 3 years he began to show some mild signs of dementia, but nothing serious. Over the last 6 months he had broken his hip, but survived and was healing, although his walking required a walker. It became clear that based on his age, 91, that he was going to need more help, but otherwise his health was good. He still recognized everyone, spoke normally, could feed himself, shower with assistance, etc. In March he developed a touch of pneumonia. Instead of taking him to the hospital, my grandmother and my aunt had him put into hospice. The bogus claim was that he had ARD or something, which was nonsense. Hospice decided that it was time for “the journey.” Over a week he was denied water and food. Two of my other aunts begged my grandmother to bring him to the hospital, but she refused. She decided she didn’t want to be inconvenienced by his inevitable decline. My uncle nearly kidnapped him. I begged my grandmother to send him to the hospital too. Nothing. He looked at my grandmother with love, like a puppy being ready to be put down because it had piddled on the kitchen floor one too many times. It was monstrous. While he was dying my grandmother was already working out the details of his funeral. She always loves giving a good eulogy. My father had died one week prior. My grandfather died three days later. I was scapegoated and literally banned from the funeral services and being around the family.
Fascism is capitalism in decay. And the more we see the decay of the American economy, the more we see the people fighting for the scraps and being at each other’s throats. Just like the fascists in Europe decided to get rid of the disabled, the weak, and the “inferiors,” the elderly are considered used up and ready to be sent to the glue factory.
We live in a Culture of Death.
Consider the statement by the Lt. Gov. of Texas, who said old people should volunteer to die to save the economy:
Appearing on Fox News, Patrick told Tucker Carlson, “No one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?’” But if they had? “If that is the exchange, I’m all in,” Patrick said. He continued: “That doesn’t make me noble or brave or anything like that. I just think there are lots of grandparents out there in this country, like me, I have six grandchildren, that what we all care about and what we love more than anything are those children. And I want to live smart and see through this, but I don’t want the whole country to be sacrificed…I’ve talked to hundreds of people, Tucker, and just in the last week, making calls all the time, and everyone says pretty much the same thing. That we can’t lose our whole country, we’re having an economic collapse. I’m also a small businessman, I understand it. And I talk with businesspeople all the time, Tucker. My heart is lifted tonight by what I heard the president say because we can do more than one thing at a time, we can do two things. So my message is let’s get back to work, let’s get back to living. Let’s be smart about it and those of us who are 70-plus, we’ll take care of ourselves. But don’t sacrifice the country, don’t do that, don’t ruin this great America.”
At this point, Tucker Carlson, who, alarmingly, could be our only hope, asked, “So you’re basically saying that this disease could take your life but that’s not the scariest thing to you, there’s something that could be worse than dying?” Put in those terms, Patrick appeared momentarily taken aback but responded, “Yeah.”