Which Way to the Elderly?

MC40_OlderPeopleSign_151985627We had a group of West African nurses visiting, working on their graduate studies; and because we were all nurses, naturally we talked about nursing. One African nurse looked at me and said, “Why do you put your elderly away, locked up in buildings, and not look after them yourselves?”

I felt guilty, ashamed and embarrassed by this challenge to my culture.  However, she was correct. Why do we do that? I meekly explained that in Canada it is common for us to move away from our families, spreading out across the country. When I felt the weight of her honest and open question, I was quiet for several moments before delving into what I knew was the essence of her question; that in our culture, different from many other cultures, independence is valued, we are less of a collective culture than others, and in fact youth and productivity are more valued in our society than is reverence of the elderly.

We love our parents, but as a society, do we respect aging, value the knowledge and wisdom of our elderly, as many other cultures do? An honest dialogue continued, discussing the differences in our two cultures. In a short amount of time, I felt less challenged to defend my culture and we all settled into learning about differences.

- Julie in Edmonton

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