Do Americans respect their elders

Do Americans respect their elders?

By John Gordon

One of the prevailing(priˈvāliNG) stereotypes(ˈsterēəˌtīp) in China about Americans is that we don’t take care of our elderly(ˈeldərlē). The image of an old, lonely grandmother wasting(ˈwāstiNG) away in a nursing home in the US is contrasted with the image of the grandmother in China being taken care of by her children as she ages. Is this stereotype a valid representation(ˌreprəˌzenˈtāSH(ə)n) of the reality of life in the US?

Let me tell you a story about my family.

My great-grandmother lived to be 100 years old. Her husband died at a young age, and she lived on her own in a small house in Durham, NC, until she was 95, when she moved in with her son, my grandfather on my mother’s side of the family. Throughout her life in Durham she was active in the community and had many friends who would often stop by for visits.

Why did my great-grandmother live on her own until she was 95? Was she abandoned by family members? Did my family not have the resources to take her in? In fact, she lived on her own because she loved her life and valued her independence. My grandfather had been suggesting for years that she move in with him, but she always refused.

Does this story mean that all elderly Americans who live on their own do so because they want to? Does it imply that there are no American grandmothers or great-grandmothers who die lonely in nursing homes? Well, no. There are many people who experience old age without the love and care of family members. But the vast majority(məˈjôrədē) of families in the United States care deeply about each other and do feel a responsibility to care for their parents as they age.

So Americans do value caring for the elderly, but they may express this care in different ways. They respect the right of the elderly to enjoy their lives and maintain their independence, and may express their care by respecting their parents’ wishes to live in a retirement(rəˈtī(ə)rmənt) community or nursing home.

In this case, and many others, we are better off trying to analyze(ˈanlˌīz) the reasons behind each situation than blindly(ˈblīn(d)lē) accepting the stereotypes we hear. After all, we don’t want Americans believing that all Chinese people are Kung Fu masters and wear clothes from the Ming Dynasty(ˈdīnəstē)!