Individualism and independence. These two values have shaped English-speaking cultures, namely the United States and the United Kingdom, to become productive and mobile. Protestantism, the group of Christian denominations predominant in these countries, believes that a person’s value is connected to their work ethic. This, however, spells a life of assisted living among the elderly, who often go to nursing and retirement homes once they reach their twilight years. Contact with their families are often minimal (Martinez-Carter, 2013).
Halfway around the world, a different picture is painted in the East Asian nations of China, Korea, Japan and the Philippines. The elderly are celebrated and revered. Families are often large, with parents, children, and grandchildren living at home. This stems from the duty of the children to take care of their parents when they age, and it is expected that they will also be taken care of in the future (Martinez-Carter, 2013).
Retirement homes are simply taboo. While it may seem ideal among Asians to take care of the elderly as they age, it does bring about a multitude of problems. A study in China investigated the experience of family caregivers in terms of responsibility and burden. They found that most family caregivers are relatives, often spouses, of a similar age as that of the one being cared for. Thus, they too require care, especially since they also have diseases themselves. Additionally, caring is required 24 hours a day for seven days in a week, denoting the lack of freedom it brings. Aging also brings about a change in the psychological capacity of the one being taken care of, which leads to confusion of the caregiver, and a resulting emotional and mental problem. Support services are often limited, with many of the community-based individuals preferring to have their elderly stay at home, out of convenience or the lack of resources (Zeng, 2014).
In the Philippines, it was expected that a child will stay home to care for their parents, but with many graduating from higher education and pursuing careers in bigger cities, an “empty nest” phenomenon is often present. A surge in the development of many retirement facilities is happening, and the market is still increasing (Shaffer, 2013).
The growing elderly population, the difficulty experienced, and the changing family dynamics have led to a creation of a new reality. While values of piety to the elderly are still much in place, a changing and globalized culture may soon bring about a new perspective: that possibly, retirement homes are no longer taboo.
Zeng, L., Zhu, X., Meng, X., Mao, Y., Wu, Q., Shi, Y., & Zhou, L. (2014). Responsibility and burden from the perspective of seniors’ family caregivers: a qualitative study in
Shanghai, China. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, 7(7), 1818–1828.
Martinez-Carter, K. (2013). How the Elderly are Treated around the World. The Week.
Retrieved on April 23, 2015 from http://theweek.com/articles/462230/how-elderly-are-treated-around-world
Shaffer, L. (2013). Retirement homes are no longer taboo in Asia. CNBC. Retrieved on April 23, 2015 from http://www.cnbc.com/id/101046362.