Essay on Examining the Western Culture's View of the Elderly

Essay on Examining the Western Culture's View of the Elderly

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I spent roughly thirty hours volunteering at Martin Luther Campus, during which I got to take a part in many experiences that were alien to me. Through participant observations, I was able to interview residents and draw out information that I would otherwise be unable to get if I used a “fly on the wall” approach. There were many things I witnessed, and experienced first hand, that made me very uncomfortable. Whether they were “bad” or “good is irrelevant, as I found that the things that made me the most uncomfortable tended to be the most relevant to this class. By keeping track of my experiences in my journals, I was able to to revisit my experiences once I obtained a more objective view. This helped me interpret my experiences as an anthropologist, rather than as an anxious nineteen year old. There were certain isolated experiences that had an impact on me, but there were also subtle trends that I began to notice over time. For instance, I noticed trends among the way the caregivers treated the residents. The conclusions and question I came up with regarding the topic were as important, if not more so, than memorable interactions with residents.

One common theme I saw at Martin Luther Campus was loneliness. Often times, it was extreme loneliness. I recall a particular time in which I was wheeling an elderly woman named Agnes back to her room from the ice cream social they hold ever Thursday. Once we were in her room, I asked her if she was doing okay, and if she needed anything. She responded “How can I be okay? All I do is sit in this room all day. No one comes to visit me. All there is to do is sleep and watch TV”. Then, some time later, she asked me to open the blinds on the window, because she liked to watch the birds ...


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... the type of care given to the residents was appropriate, and I began to rethink that it was necessarily bad for the residents. Although there is no black-and-white answer to these topic and questions, I personally believe that every human being should be treated with respect they deserve, and in the case of the elderly, I would imagine that it boosts their self esteem, and would perhaps make their lives happier. We as Americans must examine other cultures to evaluate our own treatment of the elderly. The Vedic culture teaches us to revere the elderly, and many other cultures, both past and present, have given the proper respect to the older portion of their populations (Gormally, Human Dignity and Respect for the Elderly) I believe it is time that modern Western cultures examine their views on the elderly, and whether they are actually beneficial to their societies.

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