I look after my great-uncle who lives in an old age home. I love my uncle dearly. He will be 90 years old next May (or 91 if you go by the Chinese calendar).
Uncle was born in the same decade they discovered King Tut’s tomb, when the first “talkie” came out and Mickey Mouse was born.
In his lifetime he has also lived through The Great Depression, The Chinese Cultural Revolution, World War 1 & 2, the Holocaust, the communist conquering of China, the Long March of the Red Army, the Sino-Japan War, the Cold War beginning and ending, the space race and the beginning of the Soviet Union, the Vietnam War, the Sharpeville Massacre, the building of & breaking down of the Berlin Wall, Apartheid in South Africa, the Bisho uprising, the King Williams Town bombing and Nelson Mandela being released from prison.
Mt. Helena erupted, there was the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Ethiopian famine, the Bhopal poison gas leak and the discovery of HIV/Aids.
Somewhere in the middle of his life, TV was invented, as was Disco, the Rubik’s Cube, Pac-Man and Star Wars… I don’t believe my uncle was a big Thriller fan.
Respect for elders is often the basis for the way society is organised and has been at the foundation of Chinese culture and morality for 1000’s of years. The wisdom of the ages is highly regarded and the elderly enjoy high status.
One of the legacies passed on to me by my parents was respect for elderly people. In today’s society where older people are often seen as irrelevant at best and useless at worst, it has become very important to me that I find a way to instill this same value into my own children.
I concluded with the following statement:
As relationships continue to break down in our society due to neglect, I believe that it’s vitally important to intentionally teach our children how to build them up.
Old people have traditionally been taken care of by their children in Chinese culture. Nursing homes are still a foreign concept for most. I read an article in a Chinese publication that said “those that enter nursing homes often feel as if they are being sent away and rejected”. Traditionally, grown children take care of their parents (and grandparents) when they get old.
Times have changed. Things are changing. The Hong Ning Chinese Aged Home in Belgravia, Johannesburg is the only specifically Chinese old age home in South Africa. (I must just add here that given that at the height of the South African born Chinese period the numbers were only 12,000 people the fact that there is just 1 nursing home in the country isn’t a great surprise.)
Hong Ning is well managed and Sister Maureen and her able and dedicated team of nursing sisters are a blessing and pleasure to be around. The meals are welcomed traditional Chinese fare and all major Chinese days are celebrated. A huge benefit for the residents is that they are able to communicate in their mother-tongue with the people around them.
I just can’t get over the fact that my uncle is living in a nursing home when I feel he should be living with one of his own family members.
The reality is that these days many children don’t want to or cannot afford to shoulder the burden of taking care of their parents, or simply do not have space in their homes. Rates of the elderly living alone or suffering from depression are rising. There are stories of elderly people abandoned in hospitals or suing their children for financial support. In some cases the elderly are treated better by nursing home staff than by their own families.
Does society value money above family ties these days?
Has there been a cultural shift from a society oriented towards the respect of elders to one that celebrates youth?
Is the older generation becoming the new silent generation?
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