Since the dawn of time, we have been trying to find ways to live longer and such is the hallmark of advanced societies, but we should really reconsider this notion.
We are not advocating that people should not try to live a long fulfilled life, but trying to extend one’s life by the aid of drugs or other technologies beyond the normal life cycle may not be such a good thing.
Let’s take the recent headlines from around the world that has made us ponder this question. There was a news story not too long ago out of China that the government is considering enacting a law that would make it possible for elderly parents to sue their children for not visiting them. Under the proposed law, the government will have the power to fine or imprison the children for noncompliance.
We wonder what has happened to China? Is this price of economic progress, in with the new and out with the old as they are no longer relevant?
This is not the China that we know. As children growing up, our parents would tell us stories about eastern societies holding up their elders in high esteem — caring for them with great respect and providing them with the dignified life they deserved as they have done so much for their children when they were young. For the Chinese government to do this, the country has surely changed.
We thought maybe this might be an isolated incident as China’s progress has really hampered the children’s abilities to do more for their elderly parents as that society moves at breakneck speed. Work has consumed the young and there is little time for anything else.
How much burden can old people be? Thinking that China might be an isolated incident, but clearly this is not the case.
As Japan’s deputy prime minister, Taro Aso, suggested that “old people should hurry up and die.” Mr. Aso was commenting that the elderly have become such a burden that it is costing the state too much money for medical care.
Looking at Mr. Aso, he should really look in the mirror as we hate to point out to him that he does not look that young himself. To make matters worse, Japan has one of the highest life expectancies at 83.91 years.
And as we turn our attention to North America, we are not doing that great either as we also have mistreated the elderly as well. Here we throw them in a nursing home for their own good, supposedly.
In the end, this too is a case of abandonment, but we like to spin it differently. Anyone, who has elderly parents who are in a nursing home, asks yourself how often you visit them and when was the last time? And did you feel as though it was a chore?
If you answered the questions honestly without guilt then you are a good son or good daughter.
However, if your answers are riddled with guilt then does that make you a bad son or daughter? No. We are sure you have your reasons, but it does make you wonder about yourself and how you will be treated as you age.
As life becomes more hectic and the world keeps moving faster and faster, without financial wealth at their disposal we wonder how the elderly will fit into this new world. We think there needs to be a discussion with older people’s input and concrete actions into how we can shape this new world that will give them dignity and compassion in their old age.
Coming back to our initial question, “Are you living too long for your own good?” We don’t really have an answer as to when we see older people confined to their wheelchairs or beds, with limited or no mobility, is that really living? As we don’t know, we will have to ask some old people what they think.